by Ken B.
It’s not very fun making a worst-of list. Not only must one sift through painful memories of bad art, but you feel like, in a way, you’re harming the intent of the people who made it, regardless of how misguided the final product is. But it is tradition, and so it continues.
As is the rule for this site, for a movie to be eligible for a list (best or worst of), the requirement is that it has to have been reviewed on filmreviews12.com during the 2014 calendar year. Release dates of the films themselves are irrelevant, although most of the titles on this list (but not the top ones) are from this or the past couple years.
In what is a relief, I didn’t review too many genuinely unpleasant movies this year, so to stretch out this blog post, instead of providing a numerically ranked list, I’ll format in a way similar to the current method used by James Berardinelli’s worst-of lists – alphabetical titles, followed by an actual worst (the number 1). Except here, I’ll have a runner up before that.
As a general disclaimer, this list, as it should be obvious, is a sole reflector of my opinion only. If you liked one or more of these movies, please refrain from writing nasty, vitriolic comments (oh, who am I kidding, nobody reads this site anyway).
JUST PLAIN BAD (Alphabetically listed)
DIVERGENT (Neil Burger, 2014, reviewed August 9)
The first adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and the next big “Young Adult” franchise is a colossal misfire, wasting its talented cast under a mound of poor editing, sluggish pacing (this movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and I felt every second), and forced writing (especially for its romantic subplot, which at least in this specific installment, feels needless and obligatory and does little except insinuate that a strong female lead still needs a man by her side). It picks up in its final twenty minutes, but that’s very much a case of too little, too late.
A myriad of clichés, poorly drawn characters on every side, and a laughably unrealistic trainwreck of a finale (which our own Bret W., a pastor himself, has agreed is absurd), God’s Not Dead is a shining example of bad “message” cinema, having a strong point to deliver with nothing for it to go down with. It’s also chronically boring – I watched it on the night that the Scottish independence referendum results were rolling in, and I kept pausing the movie (and I must admit, after a while, just let it run), switching tabs for a second on my browser, and reading the newest results from the polls, a story that was a) happening in real life and b) infinitely more capable of holding interest.
Jack Reacher only keeps itself from being entirely unbearable thanks to the charisma of Tom Cruise and the technical credits of its action sequences. Oh, and Werner Herzog. Werner Herzog is in this movie. And Rosamund Pike. And Richard Jenkins. And David Oyelowo. Wait, how come I didn’t like this movie even though there were so many good people in it? Oh, wait, I remember – it’s ugly, uninvolving, overlong, and formulaic.
If you are adventurous/egomaniacal enough to adapt what must be among Shakespeare’s most famous works in this day and age, after seemingly countless versions, you’d better have an edge. (Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet certainly did, making it a hyperkinetic candy-colored operatic spectacle, set in 1996 Los Angeles.) But this recent version, from Italian director Carlo Carlei, has nothing. Its performances are passable, and its costumes are flowing and gorgeous, but the dialogue, in a screenplay written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, is a sleep-inducing mixture of house-produced dribble and the Bard’s own words. I know I said you need to have an edge, but just throwing in new phrasing, purposefully sounding like an imitation (or a cheap ripoff) does nothing for anyone.
For most of the year, I thought this was it. What other movie could so utterly fail at creating even a sense of entertainment? What other movie could feel so lifeless in even its most heightened action scenes? What other movie could feel so dated? What other movie could feel so incessantly dull? What other movie could create such a strong sense of revulsion so quickly, and hold it for the rest of its runtime? The answer, of course is…
THE ACTUAL LITERAL WORST
DUNE (David Lynch, 1984, reviewed December 4)
What can I say about Dune? Not even its director, David Lynch, defends it anymore. He refuses to discuss the film at length on the record, even to this day, 30 years later. And upon watching this monstrosity, I can see why. It is endless in length, incessantly and overbearingly bloated. It’s a visual disaster. Despite some impressive scenes and set designs, the movie is often little more than a sight for sore eyes. Its talented cast may try their hardest, but they’re unable to salvage an incomprehensible screenplay, or perhaps more accurately, a final edit, not supervised by Lynch, which is an incoherent hackwork of mammoth proportions. I know that many have come around to this film, in fact a relative of mine told me she enjoyed the film, and I’m sure numerous others agree. If that’s your camp, more power to you. For me, the urge to hit the stop button started around 30 minutes in and didn’t let up from there.
So there you have it, a collection of the very worst movies, in my view at least, that I reviewed for the site in 2014. I figured I may as well get the negativity out of me before Christmas. There might be a review or two before the Best of the Year list begins running on December 29. I’ll see how it goes.