Saturday, January 25, 2014

Top 10 UGH Movies of 2013

My top 10 must "ugh" movies of 2013. What do I mean by that? Well, if you'd just relax a little and read what I have to say next, you'll find out.

This isn't a list of the worst movies of the year, per se, just the ones that left me the most unsatisfied by my heightened expectations, annoyed by squandered potential and missed opportunity, or that I just found annoying for a multitude of other reasons. In other words, you won't be seeing movies like Grown Ups 2 on this list. And for two reasons: 1) I generally avoid crap like that, and 2) if I were to watch bad movies like that more often, I wouldn't be surprised or let down by the result. This list is mostly for letdowns, and otherwise obnoxiously over-hyped movies.

Let me first start off with a brief look at few dishonorable mentions:

One of the most exceptionally dull, forgettable movies I've seen all year. I can only remember it exists because I kept track of all the 2013 movies I saw.

Gangster Squad
A total style-over-substance film that falls flat on its face, repeatedly. With a cast like this, there was no excuse for it to turn out this poorly. Sean Penn should have gotten a Razzie nomination.

I didn't expect this movie to be great, but being a fan of Danny Boyle, I was definitely upset by how convoluted, uninteresting and completely dull this was.

World War Z
Had to the potential to be an interesting, intense infection movie, but instead just proved to me why PG-13 zombie movies shouldn't exist. Shaky cam galore.

And now onto my biggest disappointments and most annoying movies of the year. I don't expect most people to agree with my inclusions on this list, just try to keep in mind that my criticism is based solely on fact: the fact being that I don't like these movies. You ready? I hope so.

10. Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

I, like almost everyone else at this point, love Matthew McConaughey and what he's done with his career over the past few years. The fact that he's showing off his talents instead of just ripping off his shirt every 5 seconds is a very welcome change for him, and I respect him much more as a performer for wanting to leave behind a legacy that doesn't just make him seem like a glorified underwear model (yes, I'm looking at you, Taylor Lautner). He is absolutely great in this movie, and will be very much deserved when or if (but almost assuredly "when") he wins an Oscar this year for what he's done here. However, everything else about this movie - and I mean everything - is sub par and just plain forgettable. I didn't expect anything mind-blowing, but this...? This is just weak. The dialogue in this movie is at time shockingly hokey, Jared Leto's performance is as one-dimensional and caricaturized as the writing, and the movie never once gives me any reason to care about what's going on in it. Almost everything about this movie is uninteresting, dull, and with the exception of McConaughey, pretty much falls flat on its face.

9. Sharknado
Directed by: Anthony C. Ferrante

The term "so bad that it's good" gets thrown around a lot, and while I must admit to being a little sick of how often it gets used, I have to say, it sometimes truly applies. When something is created with the intention of being a legitimately good movie and the result is catastrophically bad, I often find much enjoyment in that. In fact, a lot of people do (that's why Birdemic 2 even exists). What I don't like, though, is when a movie comes out not with the intention of being good, but is instead *trying* to be so bad that it's good. Things like Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, Terror Toons, and, yes, Sharknado. When the intentions of a filmmaker are genuine, the result is hilarious. Claudio Fergasso thought he was creating a masterpiece with Troll 2, James Nguyen (before he caught on) thought Birdemic was an incredibly important and thought-provoking. Seeing the results of their passion wind up so bizarrely horrible is a huge (and quite rude) part of what makes these movies so entertaining. But what is Sharknado, if not a pathetic attempt at creating something like that? My answer: nothing. It's not funny, it's not clever, and it's not even remotely entertaining.

8. To The Wonder
Directed by: Terrence Malick

If I never see another movie as boring, pretentious, and dull as this ever again, I will have to consider my life a complete success. Filled to the brim with meaningless sappy melodrama, lack of direction, and disgusting misusage of Javier Bardem - one of the greatest actors of our time - this movie spends far too much time twirling in wheat fields and showing people petting and whispering to each other, and not enough time developing it characters, plot, or even branching off into different material or cinematic method of storytelling for Malick. I've already wasted so much of my life ranting about Terrence Malick movies, I don't really feel like going into great detail on it again here, but what I want to make most clear is this: I see some value in every movie he's made, except for this. There is no point at all in this movie existing, and the less time I have to spend thinking about how much of a complete waste of time, film, and Bardem this movie was, the better off I will be.

7. Insidious: Chapter 2
Directed by: James Wan

When I first watched Insidious, I took it all at face value and enjoyed it as a creepy, but overly-sci/fi fueled PG-13 horror movie. As time went by, I began thinking about various aspects of it more and more, resulting in me re-watching it. I enjoyed it more, but I still couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that really clicked with me. I then spent some time reading fan theories surrounding various plot points, and after about 2 hours, came to conclusion that there was far more to this movie than meets the eye. I began to accept one specific idea about the film as fact, and my admiration grew and grew. Then this happened. Same writers, same director, and what does this movie do? It takes all of these interesting theories surrounding the original and tosses them right in the garbage. Not just that, but the movie itself wasn't even that creepy. It took a great idea, and ruined it. Sure, there were some good scares and the movie kept some of the chilling atmosphere of the original, but the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. Not to mention how hokey and laughable a good deal of "scary" scenes in this movie are. And what makes matters even worse, this movie earned roughly 30 times its budget in the box office.

6. Man Of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder

I went into this movie with lowered expectations, due to the poor reviews of it that had already come out at the time, so I wasn't as upset by what I saw when I watched it. But if I had watched this movie right before these early reviews, based only on my expectations at that moment, it might have caused permanent damage. Everything about this movie, from the shaky, blurry, shaky, SHAKY camerawork, to the generic set designs, over-the-top acting, action, and poor writing, this movie was a complete and utter disappointment. How could this happen? HOW?!? It just isn't fair that Batman can have so many great movies, and Superman doesn't have a single one. Nonstop action can be great, but here, it was just distracting. Even re-watching this movie with incredibly lowered expectations wasn't enough to save it. Just a major letdown. It's not even a "bad" movie, it just squandered so much potential, it's hard for me not to hate it at least a little bit.

5. Elysium
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

I didn't expect to love it, but I was hoping for at least District 9-level quality (no, I didn't like that movie much either). Instead, what I got was one of the most ham-handed immigration parables of all-time. So many moments in this movie are disgustingly obvious in the message they're trying to convey, and the result is about as subtle and interesting as an infomercial. Sharlto Copley does what he does best and improves the film somewhat, but not even his good acting could outweigh the black hole of bad acting that is Jodie Foster, who gives one of the most ridiculous "serious" performances I've ever seen. I won't directly compare the two out of sympathy for the 2-time Oscar winner, but I will say that I was reminded very much of John Travolta in Battlefield Earth as I was watching her in this movie. Shot in the shakiest way possible, blurry to the point of nausea, ham-handed, dull, poorly-scripted, appallingly-acted (Copley excluded), and a total waste of time I could have spent opening and closing a box of matches -- and felt more productive by doing so.

4. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Directed by: Adam McKay

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy was one of the funniest movies of the 2000s, and served as the most perfect Will Ferrell vehicle possible, and still stands as one of the most iconic and genuinely hilarious comedies of the modern era. So...what exactly was the deal with this awful sequel? The entire way this movie was made felt more like cheap parody than a follow-up, playing off the same jokes (which after 10 years, don't need to be told again in the exact same way), telling the same story (but with more messiness and ridiculously convoluted subplots), and adding and doing absolutely nothing new with the characters. It was as if the movie were written by people who had just recently heard of the first Anchorman, with the vaguest understanding of what people loved about it, and an even worse understanding of what makes good comedy. Every joke is tired before it even has a chance to wear itself out, and believe me, they wear themselves out very quickly. I already had low, low expectations for this movie before going into it, but nothing could have prepared me for this awful mess.

3. Blue Is The Warmest Color
Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche

And now on to the portion of the list where I get popcorn, bolts, and probably some kind of acid thrown at me. Yes, that's right, I didn't like the 3-hour lust-fueled lesbian porn fantasy that everyone is calling great for some inexplicable reason. Not only is it one of the worst "love" stories of all-time, but it's boring, tedious, repetitive, tedious, boring, repetitive, boring, overly-sexualized for the sake of drawing attention to itself via controversy, boring, tedious, repetitive, repetitive, overly-sexualized, and repetitive. If that sentence doesn't adequately describe my experience with this movie, I don't know what will. What surprises me most about this movie is how few changes would have needed to have been made in order to make it actually "good", but the movie fails at making the relationship between the two leads feel real. The acting is just fine, but the characters are flat, poorly-developed, and acting with complete lack of believable motivation, giving me no reason to feel any kind of emotion towards them -- unless disgust and bewilderment count as emotions.

2. The Wolf Of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese

It was hard finding a screenshot of this movie that didn't involve nudity, drug use, or Jonah Hill looking creepy, so ultimately I went with this picture, because get it? The American dream! I get what Scorsese was trying to do with this movie, but ultimately what I got from it was a glamorization of this excessive lifestyle, tons of unnecessary sex scenes, drug use, and about as much low-brow humor as you could fit into an equal-lengthed Seth MacFarlane show. Over the course of this obnoxiously repetitive, uninteresting, and excessive 3-hour knock-off of Goodfellas (seriously, story progression-wise this is the exact same movie as Goodfellas), I laughed maybe twice, was drawn into the story once, and never once was totally happy that I was watching it. Zero character development, just cheap gags and obvious symbolism filled out with over-the-top acting. This movie might not have been so bad if it had been chopped down to almost half its length, but the amount of cuts that would have been necessary to pull this off would have changed the movie almost entirely: a very welcome concept, in my opinion.

1. The ABCs Of Death
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Angela Bettis, Noboru Iguchi, Andrew Traucki, Thomas Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Yudai Yamaguchi, Anders Morgenthaler, Timo Tjahjanto, Ti West, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Bruno Forzani & Héléne Cattet, Simon Rumley, Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett, Srdjan Spasojevic, Jake West, Lee Hardcastle, Ben Wheatley, Kaare Andrews, Jon Schnepp, Xavier Gens, Jason Eisener, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and presumably Satan.

As much as I was irritated, flabbergasted, letdown, and bored by the previous entries on this list, #1 on my list couldn't go to any other movie but The ABCs Of Death, which currently holds a place in my top 10 least-favorite movies of all-time. 26 directors given individual segments all assigned their own letter of the alphabet with some (often misguided) connection to death, and the result feels like a giant conspiracy orchestrated by the filmmakers to create the worst anthology ever made. It was astounding to me how cheap, immature, idiotic, and amateurish most of these segments were, sinking to lows of attempted humor I never thought possible. To give a brief example of the genius of this movie, I would like to call attention to the 6th segment of the film titled "F is for Fart". Not only is this movie absolutely terrible, essentially feeling like a random assortment of poorly-conceived YouTube clips, but it takes an interesting idea and absolutely ruins it. Not even the watchable segments are "good", they're just less terrible than the lowest of the lows. Awful, awful, awful movie in every possible way, and easily my number one biggest UGH movie of 2013.

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