Movie News & Reviews

A broad range of stinkers befouled movie screens in 2014

Among the other indignities Sony Pictures has endured of late, a batch of leaked emails revealed this month that employees were sick of the studio putting resources into terrible movies. Specifically, Adam Sandler movies.

Not sure whether other studios’ personnel have expressed similar gripes. But if so they’re probably justified.

This year unleashed some truly terrible movies. Failed star vehicles, desperate comedies, tone-deaf musicals, lackluster superhero misfires, and heaps of needless sequels and remakes. Some of these films didn’t just fail to entertain, they actually seemed to make time stand still — kind of like the reverse of “Interstellar.”

Since most of these won’t be gunning for Academy Awards recognition, here are a few “Worst Of” honors bestowed to the cinematic dumpster duds of 2014.

Worst Romance: “Labor Day”

This dose of housewife porn for the Nicholas Sparks crowd finds a rugged drifter (Josh Brolin) moving in with a single mom (Kate Winslet) and her young son (Gattlin Griffith). Oh, he’s also an escaped murderer. What sounds like a slasher movie setup instead dishes an erratic romance best enjoyed for its camp value. There are unintentionally funny bits in the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” league. The standout is when the con teaches his captives how to make a peach pie. Brolin erotically plunges Winslet’s hands in sugared peaches, and they orgasmically knead dough together. This culminates in her shaking like a Chihuahua as she prepares to flip the crust used to cover the pie, treating it with the same consideration as defusing a land mine.

Worst Comedy: “Tammy”

Like Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler or Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy is the latest comedian so enamored with her own improvisational abilities that she neglects to write a script before filming a movie. She seemed so fresh a few years back via her breakthrough role in “Bridesmaids,” but McCarthy’s latest vanity project (co-written with her husband, Ben Falcone) serves up the same slovenly, foul-mouthed, malcontent character. McCarthy also inserts every star she knows into even the tiniest walk-ons rather than casting actors who make sense for the role. It doesn’t take a trip to IMDB to realize 67-year-old Susan Sarandon probably wouldn’t have a 54-year-old daughter (Allison Janney) and a 43-year-old granddaughter (McCarthy).

Worst Kids Flick: “The Nut Job”

A group of park-dwelling critters tries to rob a nut store to help survive the winter, but the store’s shifty owners have actually set up shop to rob the neighboring bank. Fun premise; sloppy execution. So many tonal clangs thwart “The Nut Job” — like having the humans speak in Eisenhower-era lingo (which is when it’s set) while the animals talk in OMG and LOL modernisms — but nothing sums up this animated effort’s shortcomings like the end credits. Out of nowhere, an avatar of Korean pop star Psy emerges and dances alongside the cast to his so-three-years-ago hit “Gangnam Style.” Nut Job, indeed.

Worst Superhero Movie: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

With Captain America, the X-Men and even Guardians of the Galaxy raising the collective bar, Marvel’s most famous character gets stuck with the crummiest movie. (Blame leaky Sony: Marvel Studios and Fox are responsible for the good adaptations.) Overstuffed adventure meets corny melodrama in director Marc Webb’s follow-up to his tepid 2012 Spidey reboot. It’s a chaotic cluster of sound and fury — even with an appearance by Nick Fury. One must go back to the Joel Schumacher Batman fiascos to find a director more disconnected to his superhero source material. Webb seems impatient with any scene that’s not a conversation. Kind of a problem for an action movie dominated by three cartoonish supervillains.

Worst Young Adult Movie: “If I Stay”

The customarily excellent Chloe Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass”) spends much of this silly romance in a coma while her spirit floats around commenting on life. But it’s not the supernatural bent of this opposites-attract tearjerker about a teen classical cellist dating an aspiring rock vocalist (the stiff Jamie Blackley) that makes it so phony; it’s the normal stuff. Nearly every conversation reveals a hollow detachment, as if the performers didn’t understand English and memorized all the dialogue phonetically.

Worst CGI Orgy: “300: Rise of the Empire”

This appalling sequel to the 2007 historical-ish action epic proves that no decapitation can be too slow and no disemboweling too implied. To filmmaker Noam Murro’s effects team, the human body is merely a piñata filled with blackish-red ooze instead of candy. Sullivan Stapleton takes over Gerard Butler duties, playing an ancient Greek leader hoping to repel the Persian fleet. Interestingly, not one scene in “Empire” was actually filmed in or around water. It was shot entirely on a dry Bulgarian sound stage, with liquid added in post-production … along with about every other element seen onscreen.

Worst Road Movie: “The Rover”

The tagline on the Australian film’s poster reads, “Fear the man with nothing left to lose.” It should read, “Fear the movie with no reason to exist.” This violent, nihilistic and tedious revenge drama set in a near-future Outback sure ain’t “The Road Warrior.” Guy Pearce plays a brooding loner who teams with a dim-witted thief (Brit Robert Pattinson struggling mightily with an unexplained Mississippi accent) to retrieve a stolen car. Filmmaker David Michôd (“Animal Kingdom”) also saddles his cast with nothing interesting to say. Most conversations consist of a question that is answered with another unrelated question. For instance, if a character asks, “Who are you?” the response is typically something like, “What’s in there?” Riveting.

Worst Adam Sandler Movie: “Blended”

Sony employees were right.

Worst Ensemble Movie: “The Monuments Men”

George Clooney, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin: an Oscar-caliber cast at all positions (including Clooney as director). But what should have emerged as a highbrow spin on “The Dirty Dozen” is turned into a flat and uninvolving caper about the Nazis’ theft of priceless works of art and the team sent to recover them. This disjointed snoozer — which feels like a three-hour movie condensed to fit a two-hour TV time slot — continually allows ripe dramatic opportunities to evaporate. Example: Murray and Bob Balaban play art experts who at one point stumble into a guns-drawn stalemate with a jittery German soldier. It gets resolved off-screen.

Worst Movie to Get a Positive Rating on Rotten Tomatoes: “Noah”

It’s sitting comfortably at 77 percent right now, a good deal of which stems from the fact hipster critics will write a blank check to anything by director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) — even this bloated historical epic. The absurd preflood section can best be described as “The Lord of the Rings” meets “Left Behind.” Or maybe Terrence Malick meets Monty Python. Once the flood hits (spoiler alert!), the movie works better as a contained character drama, with Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly turning in respectable work. But what’s it all mean? Although Aronofsky’s canvas is grand and bizarre, his philosophical notions are petite. Ultimately, he views Noah as simply a guy obeying orders.

Worst Sequel or Prequel: “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

Whereas nobody expects a fourth “Transformers” movie or a 20-years-too-late sequel to “Dumb and Dumber” to be any good, most fans had high hopes for a prequel to 2005’s revered “Sin City.” Despite having graphic novel creator Frank Miller direct, returning most of the key performers and adding some heavy hitters to the cast (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Josh Brolin), “A Dame to Kill For” stinks. The movie proves it’s just not enough to replicate the textures of an ink-and-paper comic or to stuff the frame with nudity and gory violence. No amount of style can camouflage the lack of substance in this dull ripoff of its own predecessor.

Worst Movie of the Year: “The Identical”

What might happen if an Elvis Presley-like icon had a twin brother, secretly given up for adoption and then raised as an unknown with equal musical talent? “The Identical” answers that rhetorical question with wholesome, royalty-free vengeance. Flaccid newcomer Blake Rayne (the stage name of former Elvis impersonator Ryan Pelton) stars as the adult twins, whose careers span the 1950s-’70s just like the King. But all the music suffers from an overproduced ’80s sheen: It’s more dated than retro. “The Identical” sure feels like a fringe religious agenda movie, but what is the agenda? Aside from a bizarre superfluous scene trumpeting Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, this is one morally hazy flick. It’s only shot at fame is by joining “Xanadu,” “Cool as Ice” and “From Justin to Kelly” in the campy pantheon of all-time worst musical mishaps.

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