10. Olympus Has Fallen – The first of the year’s two Die Hard in the White House movies is a nasty jingoistic nightmare that dangerously suggests anyone with a foreign face is evil and must die. Meanwhile, Antoine Fuqua does his best to make people forget that he once directed Training Day, Melissa Leo recites the Pledge of Allegiance while being dragged to certain doom, and Morgan Freeman is featured front and center in the film’s poster yet somehow Aaron Eckhart is cast as the President. At least Ashley Judd had the good sense to bail by the 10-minute mark.
9. The Host – The inner dialogue between a human and the alien living inside her head may have worked well on the page, but in this adaptation of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer’s adult novel it plays like a bad joke. Set in an undercooked future denoted by shiny silver cars and bleach white outfits, writer/director Andrew Niccol (unrecognizable as the mind behind Gattaca and The Truman Show) gives in to Meyer’s textbook corny romance while Saoirse Ronin, in a rare misfire, likewise allows herself to be led astray. The lone perk is that the worldwide gross only netted $8 million over the film’s budget, so future soapy adventures seem unlikely.
8. Salinger – J.D. Salinger is probably my favorite author, so I was excited to have both a documentary by Shane Salerno and an accompanying book by Salerno and David Shields slated for the fall. While the 700-page text is a major accomplishment and got my hopes up for its visual companion, condensing that information into a two-hour film proved disastrous. I guess it’s only appropriate that a movie about a writer whose work translates poorly to the screen would be awful, but the extent of that failure, especially considering Salerno’s victory on the page, is surprising.
7. Grown Ups 2 – An obvious choice, but just because you spot a rabid dog from a mile away doesn’t mean Atticus shouldn’t shoot him. Chris Rock knows better, but his Happy Madison cohorts haven’t been funny for a while and leave no doubt in this stinker. The worst part is that audiences fell for it to the tune of over $133 million, meaning Grown Ups 3 isn’t far off.
6. The Heat – Melissa McCarthy continues to mistake loud for funny and Sandra Bullock acts lost with a script so lazy it makes McCarthy’s other 2013 dud, Identity Thief, look like a Mel Brooks classic. Audiences howled to the point that subsequent lines couldn’t be heard (so I’m told) while critics blindly lauded a female buddy cop comedy in the name of easy feminism without pausing to consider the material’s merit. If I want to see improv I’ll see an actual comedy troupe, not this haphazard collection of laugh-free gags that’s a huge step backward for director Paul Feig after Bridesmaids.
5. A Haunted House and Scary Movie V – Essentially the same movie and somehow not the year’s only entries to parody the Paranormal Activity franchise, just the two that received wide releases. The former showed how far the Wayans name has fallen since making the very funny first two installments of the latter series, which falsely assumed slapping a few mid-level celebrities onscreen would make for instant laughs and rushing spoofs of contemporaries Mama and Evil Dead would make them look smart.
4. The Big Wedding – Proof that a lot of stars does not a good movie make, this botched comedy telegraphs each of its alleged big surprises early, leaving little but a long wait for the end credits. Robert De Niro (whose The Family, Last Vegas, and Grudge Match just missed making this list), Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams should all have an asterisk put next to their “Academy Award Winner” status for at least the next three years.
3. Delivery Man – The Internship proved that with the right material Vince Vaughn still had “it” even if “it” was playing the same loud schtick he’d been running since Swingers. Take away that schtick and the volume and set it loose via a character decision that makes absolutely no sense and you have this painful coming-of-age dud. As a sperm donor who learns he’s the biological father of 500+ children, his quest to anonymously impact their lives goes for cheap laughs (one’s African American! One’s gay!) and hanky moments (one’s…mentally disabled…), shamelessly trying for a full card bingo. Instead, the film doesn’t even cover the free space.
2. Free Birds – Turbo made accepting a snail capable of 200 mph speeds as difficult as possible, but the creators of this random tale of time-traveling turkeys looking to keep their kind off the first Thanksgiving menu made embracing their story a true impossibility. The stoner ridiculousness of it all caused my mind to wander and become conscious of things like Owen Wilson screaming over and over in a sound booth and how many hundreds of hours of hard work was put into something so terrible. It all depressed the hell out of me and I never want to see it again.
1. Spring Breakers – The gyrating bodies, beer sprays, and EDM start to feel repetitive after the opening minute. Once characters open their mouths, the real misery begins. Harmony Korine’s attempted critique of modern youth culture through annoying improvised dialogue is an utter failure, as is the highly touted turning of former Disney Channel stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez to the dark side. Most shameful of all is that James Franco, Swannanoa’s Most Wanted, allowed himself to be dragged this low. His wannabe gangster makes Jar Jar Binks look like Paul Newman and puts a giant black mark on the renaissance man’s resumé. The longest 94 minutes at the movies this year, that Franco’s performance and the film are showing up on their share of Top 10 lists is further proof that the mental health industry is one of the more sustainable markets.
21 and Over; Dark Skies; Broken City; Parker; Baggage Claim; Escape Plan; Identity Thief; A Good Day to Die Hard; Snitch; Iron Man 3; The Wolverine; The Hangover Part III; Fast & Furious 6; Turbo; RED 2; 2 Guns; Kick-Ass 2; Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; The Family; Romeo and Juliet; Carrie; Walking with Dinosaurs; and Movie 43. Special mention also goes to Safe Haven and Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, whose batshit crazy endings to otherwise dreadful stories turned them from Top 10 locks to “seeing is believing” shock watches.
Salinger – The year’s biggest disappointment. See above.
All Is Lost – the concept of Robert Redford alone on the ocean was a high risk, high reward one…that didn’t pay off and made staying awake a struggle.
Kick-Ass 2 – the first was a stylized romp. The sequel was its evil bizarro twin.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – it’s still good, but for the first time in Jackson’s tenure as Tolkien custodian, the story feels a bit thin.
The Bling Ring – in a year where intentionally vapid dialogue was vogue, you’d think Sofia Coppola would know how to wield it. Alas, she did not.
The World’s End – Edgar Wright was getting better with each film, but this uneven romp brought him back to pre-Shaun of the Dead levels.
Gravity – the spectacle is undeniable, but the claims of reinventing cinema were as bogus as those of its 3D being anything more than average.
SPRING BREAKERS was my number 3 favorite movie of the year.
You forgot “Mama”.
“Mama” was fine: http://ashvegas.com/demosite/ashvegas-movie-review-mama