The Worst Films of 2013

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Being a movie critic isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s no manual labor involved, but there can be a lot of pain endured while watching movies.

This list is a testament to that.

Listed here will be the 10 times during 2013 that I wanted to walk out of the theater or turn off my laptop the most. Basically, if I had to choose 10 films that I would want everyone to avoid the most, these are it. Let’s get right to it then.

10. Phantom

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Probably the dullest film of 2013 was the inconceivable Phantom, another sluggish submarine thriller that tries to replicate the success of The Hunt of Red October, and missed that goal by a few nautical miles.

The great Ed Harris is cast as a captain in the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. While his performance is top-notch – to the best of his abilities with the blundering lines he’s forced to give – he never provides even a taste of a Russian accent. Ed Harris plays his usual Ed Harris persona, which is actually convincing in another archetype military role for him, but his character talks and acts like an American which leads the audience astray. It takes too long to realize that Harris and his men aren’t even American!

Demi (Harris) is given vague orders by his commander, Markov (Lance Henriksen), to helm a submarine and carry out a top-secret mission. Demi is reluctant because of past mistakes while in command, but accepts and soon sails off with the creepiest, rustiest ship available with his men and second-in-command, Alex Kozlov (William Fichtner, another great American actor without a Russian accent).

An ominous Soviet agent, Bruni (David Duchovny), also boards Demi’s ship with his own squad of soldiers who all should have “Bad Guys” spray painted in neon on their chests. As the sub sails away, Markov shoots himself seemlingly for no reason, Bruni’s men have commandeered the ship, and soon we are looking for an excuse to swim to the exits and away from this picture. The remainder of the story involves a drawn-out of men in a cramped submarine and talking, with no suspense and amateur, b-rated action towards the end. Nothing suggests that these men are trained Navy officers, Soviets, or once lived in the 1960’s. Cold War veterans would spit at this amateur project, and rightfully so. You’re far better off catching a factual documentary on the History Channel.

9. Noobz

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The main characters of Noobz act like descendants of the morons from Grandma’s Boy, which was an automatic sign that I would hate this movie. These guys eat, sleep and breathe around video games, so much so that the hero, Cody (Blake Freeman), gets fired from his job and loses his wife from playing too often. How she ever had the misfortune of getting to first base with this guy is a mystery. When Cody tells his single, loser friends about his wife leaving him, they cheer and ridicule him just like so many other empty comedies I’ve seen.

So, when video games appear to be the clear sole problem in their lives, what’s their solution? Why, enter a video game competition of course. None of them appear to have jobs, yet they all can afford rent and a trip to Los Angeles.

This film is so uniquely oblivious of real life that it’s frightening people in a board room actually sat down and considered this quality entertainment. This film is physical proof that the executives and filmmakers of this project actually believe that gamers are morons with no jobs or responsibilities. I’m good friends with hardcore gamers, and all of them have either graduated college, about to finish college or have full-time jobs.

Films like this are the reason why people don’t take video games seriously, and why some critics don’t consider the medium an art form. Video games, like animated films, are separate worlds with limitless boundaries. It takes articulate and innovate people to structure a good video game, just like any movie or painting. A film about the creation of the video game Skyrim, for instance, might tell an interesting story and avenge the gaming scene. But until then, films like Noobz will continue to associate video games with stupidity and insignificance.

8. Kick-Ass 2

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The original Kick-Ass was simpleminded, cruel, unimaginative and one of the worst movies of 2010. Its sequel, Kick-Ass 2, is absentminded,  agonizing, brainless and somehow worse than the original, making an easy case to join the list of one of the worst movies of 2013.

I always feel I need to plead me case for hating the Kick-Ass series with extra effort, because for some reason it has a large fan-base, including all of my close friends. Let’s forget for a moment and push aside all the worthless fart and groin jokes, all the cardboard special effects, all the idiotic, brainless quotes said throughout the series and focus on one aspect: Kick-Ass himself (played by the respectable Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was great in Savages). Kick-Ass is boring, annoying teenager with no real superpowers. He never really has a motive to drive him to do good; I think he’s just an attention-seeking crybaby who made himself ripped to impress a hot chick in his high school.

Kick-Ass, as much as I hate calling him that, unites with a band of fellow amateur superheros masked in latex. Take a gander at some of these outlandish code names: the team is led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carey),  and features Insect Man (Robert Emms) and Night Bitch (Lindy Booth). I may be guessing, but what superhero, male or female, willingly titles themselves “Night Bitch?”

I haven’t even mentioned the herculean, sweaty freakazoid Mother Russia played by Olga Kurkulina, my new least favorite character since the heroine of last year’s Lay the Favorite. She is a female, Russian version of Hulk Hogan is his prime. She wears an eye-patch, and her bathing suit-type outfit has the Russian hammer and sickle over the brazier portions. I hated every vacant, insulting sentence that left her mouth. I hated brutal depiction of this person that’s sexist towards women and overly stereotypical of Russians. Russia should sue.

7. The Baytown Outlaws 

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The Baytown Outlaws only had a limited January release in America, but that’s enough to warrant it as one of the worst films released in 2013. And with a 19% on the tomatometer it appears not many would disagree with me.

This films stems from the most simple-minded part of the movie family tree; three murderous hillbillies inexplicably concern over a stranger woman and her godson, whose lives are threatened by the estranged step-dad, Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton). There’s also an empty sub-plot of the corrupt local sheriff (Andre Braugher) who is on Carlos’ books and so doesn’t arrest him for his crimes.

So let me understand this. Thronton and Braugher, two of the better character actors in today’s movies, read the script and gave it a thumbs up of approval? The budget is so obviously low, I can’t imagine how well their respective paychecks could have been. According to the-numbers.com, this film made $0 at the box office, which is probably close but not entirely accurate, but I don’t see these actors receiving decent royalty checks from this film.

So what we have here is chopped up action scenes filmed with boring car chases, ugly Mexican standoffs and piles of dead bodies shot to death with obviously fake blood overflowing from them. I can’t see this film’s fanbase reaching 100 people. Those responsible for this crime — director/writer Barry Battles and co-writer Griffin Hood, among others — should settle for an early retirement from filmmaking and find themselves desk jobs in a studio. Or someplace that doesn’t involve making movies, if possible.

6. Dark Skies

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It’s all but confirmed at this point in Scott Stewart’s career that he can do no right. His third feature film directorial project, Dark Skies, is as competent as a toaster oven, and that’s an insult to the metallic kitchen appliance.

Horror films are one of he easier genres for me to critique. I ask myself, Would this scare anyone? People who are frightened by the events of Dark Skies, and I don’t doubt there are some, must also be afraid of their own shadow.

I must confess, when I first witnessed distinctly animated birds hilariously crashing into a window during the trailer for this film, I was convinced I was watching a parody. But nothing could be farther from the truth, as the characters recite their lines with empty earnestness and vacant personas. I’ve encountered fewer characters who were less interesting as the members of this family, who have issues with an invisible presence haunting their every move.

Stewart, also the culprit behind such atrocities as Legion and Priest, is still too caught up in his fanboy fantasies of late night B-movies I think to ever develop anything with substance. Good special effects don’t necessarily make a good movie, but they should at least show the filmmakers made honorable attempts at being professional. The special effects in all of Stewart’s works are nothing short of laughable. If modern movie studios cannot afford to provide decent enough budgets for the special effects department, they should halt the project altogether and save a lot of grief. Stewart’s credentials include taking part in the visual effects of great works like Sin CityIron ManBlade Runner and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so it’s tough to decide where the blame should fall. Maybe the screenwriting department? Oh, wait…

5. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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They thought they were in the clear. A comedy starring the likes of Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin, written by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis — the duo who wrote great comedies Horrible Bosses and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 — sounds like a marquee team for a brilliant, outrageous comedy.

This hypothesis has been proven false. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is anything but incredible or wondrous. What’s incredible — nay, insulting — is how much brilliance this film lacks. You know you’re in trouble when the title character is most annoying person in the movie. Burt Wonderstone is infected with Fingernails On The Blackboard Syndrome; his screeching voice and adolescent mannerisms categorize him in a species foreign to this planet.

I thought Jim Carrey’s character could’ve had something going for him. He might have made a better protagonist than Wonderstone. Carrey — who had three supporting roles in three clunkers this year, inlcuding Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues which barely missed this list — doesn’t so much overact as he recites the garbage lines spoonfed to him. But I must admit, every time his character proudly levitated in the air and floated away I cracked a laugh.

But take Carrey’s character completely out of the picture, and all you have are gifted comedic talents standing around telling poo and pee jokes, all lost at sea by the horrendous script. Maybe director Don Scardino — of mostly TV sitcom fame like 30 Rock — didn’t discipline his crew well enough, and basically allowed the actors to read the lines whoever they wanted. I doubt many re-shots were taken, as I’m sure everyone wanted to pack up and get the Hell out of dodge before their friends found out they were involved in this project. Look on the bright side guys, at least you didn’t make the absolute worst comedy of the year. Just the fifth-worst.

4. Freeloaders

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This is the worst movie that you’ve probably never heard of. According to IMDb.com, Freeloaders was available on Video On Demand in December 2012, and released in theaters in New York City in January 2013. I’m including this in my list however because of the degrading, nauseating, excruciating pain this film caused onto me.

A group of loafers live together in a rich musician’s pad, as he is rarely ever in town. They soon discover the musician plans on selling his pad, so they are forced to either find refuge somewhere else or raise enough money to buy the place themselves.

Those involved with this project can be familiar with comedy if they consider this material humorous. Comedy is created from what could be everyday situations that occur naturally. It’s funnier if a character isn’t aware that something is funny, rather than telling scrotum jokes. Comedy is highly about characters and situations, something that Woody Allen consistently takes advantage of. But none of these characters or situations are inspiring or believable, why would anyone care what happens to these people who have a combined IQ of 20?

I’m often pursued by my friends who wonder why I don’t consider comedies like Tommy Boy and Grandma’s Boy funny, and I always give simplistic answers. The jokes are forced and aren’t written or timed well. I don’t want to watch comedies about people I wouldn’t want to be caught dead with. I’m still convinced there are more people who think Tommy Boy is a classic comedy than there are people who have actually seen it. I want you to watch a movie like Freeloaders, by yourself, and consciously watch and listen to the movie. If you take a date to watch it, and he or she finds it funny, tell that person you’ve been thinking it over and you want to see other people.

3. Pain & Gain

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Rarely have I been as stunned while watching a movie than when I was tortured through Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain. I sat there, motionless and rethinking my life decisions, and honest to God I though to myself, Well, at least I can say I wasn’t the one who made Pain & Gain.

“This film is a waste of electricity,” I wrote in my initial review for The UB Spectrum. Apparently that includes the power used to operate my laptop while typing these words.

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie star as egotistical bodybuilders who believe the sky is their limit. For being in their 30’s and 40’s, these guys act like recent high school dropouts. Wahlberg is the most obnoxious of the trio, donning is usual smartmouth tough guy charisma that made him famous in The Departed. Sorry, I can’t root for a guy who murders and robs people and then does dumbbell curls to stimulate his mind. The Rock is kinda funny, serving as the “Lenny” of the group: tall and strong, but harmless and soft. 

But no one could have saved this project from spiraling down into disaster. Apparently based on true circumstances, Pain & Gain unwisely expects its audiences to relate to obnoxious criminals who sweat and cuss their way through the most obnoxious of situations. The men are annoying jackasses, the women are demoted to sex objects. Seriously Michael Bay, shame on you. You should know better. You can, and have done better than this with The RockThe Island and the first two Transformers movies. Then you make films like Armageddon  and Pain & Gain just to torment us. Go back to your basics and work your way up if you want to be taken seriously in the industry again.

2. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters only became easier to watch after having removed my 3-D glasses and squinted at a fuzzy screen. Only then did my pain minimally subdue. And only after I chucked an apple core at the IMAX screen during the end credits did I find solace.

Maybe I got my hopes too high. Tommy Wirkola, who directed the eccentric but enjoyable Dead Snow, took no risks this time around and simply recycled used parts from the used-screenplay assembly line to mold this mess. He might have been attempting to cash in on the surprise cult success of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, unseen by me. But while Dead Snow contained clever, satirical humor towards the horror genre, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters will find itself mocked for years to come.

Notorious fairy tale siblings Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, respectfully) have grown up and have declared themselves bounty hunters against any and all witches. This concept has potential and could be done well with a thought out, whimsical script. But all this film consists of is setups, shootings and guts followed by more setups, shootings and guts until you’d rather watch horses being rallied into the glue factory.

The special effects in this film make Dark Skies look like Avatar. The witches are so poorly designed and illustrated, I’m not convinced that this film had a final editing process. And it’s not like the witches keep their heads long enough to look convincing, anyway.

I’m writing this 36o days after seeing this film, yet it feels like yesterday when I became so angered by what I was watching I lost all faith in cinema. I tend to not use hyperboles when writing reviews, but my body literally shook from so much anger, resulting in the apple landing on the screen. Yet I wish I could have thrown a watermelon at the screen after watching the next and final entry of my list.

1. Movie 43

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I don’t know how much more I can insult this movie. I’ve written two reviews of it now, one on my blog and one for The Spectrum. And now, even after a year of seeing it, I must revisit my memories of this film in an attempt to warn you away from seeing it at all cost.

The word “movie” should be stricken from the title, as no signs of cinematic strive was shown at all through this abomination. But what this… motion picture consists of is a line movie idea pitches by a skittish screenwriter (Dennis Quaid).

That’s the setup for some of the worst scenes to ever curse the screen. Take the dinner date Kate Winslet has with Hugh Jackman, who has a pair of testicles growing from his chin. Or the abusive parents who torment their home schooled child. Or the meeting between Apple executives led by Richard Gere who plan to market the iBabe: a naked chick in a box.

And when we finally think the storm has subsided and the end credits start rolling, the last and worst skit involves a poorly drawn animated cat puking and dropping feces all over Josh Duhamel and Elizabeth Olsen. It was during this skit when my body lost all function. I sat there, in the dark, my eyes aching while glaring at the screen. After it was all finally over, I silently got up from my chair and shuffled out of the theater, my head angled down in mounting gloom.

This might be the worst film I’ve ever seen. My reason is because of the apparent disregard that those involved with this film had towards the anyone willing to pay money to sit in a theater. They might as well have filmed one scene of the entire cast and crew flipping off the camera after the cat scene. If making the worst movie of all time was their goal, they succeeded wit flying colors.

Other terrible movies of the year:

Texas Chainsaw 3D, All Superheroes Must Die, A Dark Truth, Crawlspace, Officer Down, Storage 24, Parker, John Dies at the End, Knife Fight, A Good Day to Die Hard, Escape From Planet Earth, 21 and Over, The Frankenstein Theory, V/H/S 2, Turbo, Escape Plan, The Counselor, Freebirds,  You’re Next, Red,  Anchorman 2: The legend Continues

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