The Worst Movies of 2012


It was an exceptionally good year for movies, whether you were a fan or a Hollywood executive. But no year -- even one of the best in a long while -- can go by without its fair share of duds. With those stinkers in mind, Screening Room's film year in review turns its eyes to the movies of 2012 that everyone should try and forget (just as soon as they are done reading this list). One note about the list, or more accurately the viewing habits behind it: I try to avoid films that I suspect will be lousy as a general rule, so this isn't exactly a pure worst-of list because, well, I've tried to self-censor some of the very worst ahead of time.

With that out of the way, on to the list -- compiled to protect those who haven't seen these films from making the same mistake I did and to give those who already did a specific place to commiserate.

10. Piranha 3DD
The Piranha series, which began with 2010's Piranha 3D (itself a remake of a 1970s B-movie), now represents both sides of the camp-and-excess coin thanks to this wretched sequel. I legitimately loved Piranha 3D, which was a hilarious, blood-drenched horror flick that might have fit in nicely with the Grindhouse movies. Its follow-up, unfortunately, tried to be even more crass, but forgot to worry about all the other details -- like a semi-coherent plot -- that made the original enjoyable. It was a success in the crassness department, but a disaster in pretty much every other facet.
9. The Man With the Iron Fists
True story about The Man With the Iron Fists: I fell asleep during the middle of the movie for what I assume was about 10 or 15 minutes, and when I woke up I was no more or less confused about what was going on than when I dozed off. Rapper RZA's directorial debut looked awfully cool, and, as I wrote in my review, I hope he will keep making movies because there's plenty of unpolished talent there and deep adoration for an underappreciated genre -- the kung fu film. But his maiden voyage as a director was a forgettable mess, mostly due to spectacularly disjointed plot that exposed his considerable weaknesses as a screenwriter.
8. Savages
If Hollywood is a town full of self-important blowhards, then director Oliver Stone is one of its most self-important-y blowhard-ites. That's why it's so inconceivable that Savages -- a film ostensibly about America's gravest ongoing injustice, the War on Drugs -- so thoroughly skirted the political issues that ought to be at its core. For once I welcomed a chance to be overwhelmed by Stone's thinly veiled, lefty political agenda. I was ready to let it wash over me and nod my head in agreement. So naturally he went and made a straightforward (and sub-par) action-romance film in Savages. At least it fits in with the overall Stone-the-moviemaker narrative -- occasional greatness surrounded on all sides by disappointment.
7. Trouble With the Curve
With the possible exception of The Raven, I'm not sure any of the other films on this list made me more viscerally angry than Trouble With the Curve. Other than Justin Timberlake's performance as a scouting protegee of Clint Eastwood's Gus, everything about this movie was almost impressively lazy and cliche. Grumpy grunts from Eastwood? Check. Broken father-daughter relationship? Sure. Inane wisdom about the importance of intangibles in assessing baseball players? Yup. Trouble With the Curve is the unwanted progeny of an intellectual hatefuck between Joe Morgan and Nora Ephron. That's a disturbing image, yes, but it'll pass in a minute or two, unlike this film, which drones on and on aimlessly until it reaches its obvious and nonsensical conclusion.
6. Safety Not Guaranteed
I have a love-hate relationship with increasingly prevalent twee indie comedies like Safety Not Guaranteed. Made at a fraction of the cost and without all the frills of a big-budget comedy like, say, The Watch, they can often blow their more monied cousins out of the water. But they can also be so fixated on hitting just the right oddball notes that the genuine joy is sapped right out of them. They all also seem to possess the same tired message -- just be yourself, chase your dreams, etc. and everything will be all right. In its attempts to perfectly encapsulate quirky adorkability, Safety Not Guaranteed seemed to be devoid of any genuine whimsy.
5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Making a successfully campy comic book movie in a year when The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises could be held up as shining examples of just how high-minded the superhero genre can be was always going to be a tall order. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor could even be bothered to try with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, this despite the fact that they were blessed with Nicolas Cage, the forehead human embodiment of camp. You'll notice laziness as a common thread among all the films listed here, and the second installment in the Ghost Rider franchise earned its place in that sense. The beginning of the film is set in "Eastern Europe." Seriously. I guess the fake country guy was too busy with The Dictator at the time.
4. Take This Waltz
I've never wanted to see Michelle Williams stare longingly into the distance in various shades of the afternoon sunlight while she selfishly weighs cheating on her perfectly fine husband (Seth Rogen) with a hipster that lives across the street from her, and I'd like to thank director Sarah Polley for confirming that wish with Take This Waltz. There's an OK message at the end of Polley's film, but the payoff is hardly worth the slog just to get it.
3. Battleship
The only thing this movie sunk successfully was Taylor Kitsch's career! Hiyooooo. OK, I'm getting a little punch-drunk at this point. The problem with Battleship, like many of the other movies here, is a lack of originality. Yes, once again, laziness is at the root of the ills of another film listed here. Battleship cribs extensively from Transformers, yes, but it also rips off the likes of Independence Day pretty heavily as well. Neither of those films/franchises are any good, so a watered-down imitation was bound to fail. About the only thing done right in Battleship? The clever integration of an element of the board game into the plot. Everything else was a dashed-on-the-rocks wreck.
2. The Raven
Edgar Allen Poe's brilliance as a horror writer -- indeed, the brilliance of horror as a genre when it is done right -- was in his subtlety. The feeling of sheer terror often builds slowly in the mind before it erupts, and Poe was a master at that gradual crescendo. It's ironic, then, that The Raven, and John Cusack's portrayal of the infamous author in it, is utterly devoid of similar subtle sensibilities. Does Poe strike you as a yeller? Though I know little about him personally, his work never gave me the impression that he was prone to blustery, melodramatic speeches at every turn. And yet there is Cusack wearing a haphazard goatee and screaming at the top of his lungs every chance gets during The Raven.
1. The Expendables 2
I actually really liked The Expendables. It was brainless, sure, but it was fun to relive the late 1980s and early 1990s -- those Halcyon days when blockbuster action films could be enjoyed totally free of irony and tights. The Expendables 2 is mostly the same movie, just with more Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris. So, what changed? How can The Expendables be so great and its sequel so miserable? Well, maybe it's me. Or maybe it's our popular culture and a film industry that cannibalizes every decent standalone idea so quickly and thoroughly that an Action-Stars-of-the-1990s Reunion Tour already feels stale. Mostly, I think The Expendables 2 just made me feel old. Most of its stars are wrinkly has-beens at this point, and, well, there's a reason real-life cowboys don't wear novelty cowboy hats. They are funny as a one-time sight gag, but serve no real purpose after the first laugh. The 1990s aren't coming back, no matter how much flannel I wear (and I wear a lot). The action genre might soar again, but it won't be because of anyone in The Expendables 2, which itself was a cringeworthy reminder of exactly why.