Now that all those hoity-toity “good movies” are behind us, let’s bring out the dogs. Looking at nominations for your future ironic bad-movie parties? Scroll down for the worst of what I saw in 2010. You can probably find crappier movies, but I sure didn’t.
The Not-Quite Least Favorite List
10. The Expendables
9. Due Date
7. The Wolfman
6. Hot Tub Time Machine
5. Clash of the Titans
Most of the rage boiling around Louis Leterrier’s soggy fantasy remake focused on the now-legendary 3D conversion, half-baked from the 2D print to grab at some of that Avatar cash. Some people misunderstood why they were paying extra. The premium price wasn’t for the godawful, hack job 3D—for example, some viewers noticed characters focused in the foreground while the character’s haircut remained in the background—but for the surprising mercy of rendering the movie itself unwatchable.
Clash of the Titans is a terrible movie in any D. The script resembles a rough draft from that room full of monkeys before they stumbled on Shakespeare.
Q. Why is Perseus on his quest?
A. Because fuck the gods, that’s why.
Q. But the gods aren’t that bad, are they? Zeus keeps trying to help.
A. No, they totally are, because Zeus also keeps trying to be a dick.
Q. So Zeus is the bad guy?
A. No. That’s Hades, remember?
Q. Oh, right! He’s totally the bad guy. Perseus is after him, right?
A. Yup. Perseus spends the entire movie talking about fighting and killing Hades.
Q. Does he?
A. Nah, he doesn’t really even try when he gets a chance.
Q. Oh. So what does he do?
A. He just ices the Kraken with Medusa’s head to save Andromeda.
Q. Oh, his one true love?
A. No, fuck her. He hooks up with this other lady who’s been acting like his Obi-wan, and who fell in love with him as a baby.
The original Clash was no sacred cow, but at least it had those totally boss Ray Harryhausen effects scenes, which the remake trades out for a sleek CGI demo reel. Neither effect looks “real”, but the stop-motion puppets gave the Harryhausen monsters an awkward kind of believability. They felt strangely alive. CGI perfection may look good on a computer screen, but in a movie it’s dull and lifeless. So is the film.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Jackie Earle Haley is better than this.
Production company Platinum Dunes seems to be in a race to make terrible horror movies, one where it’s satisfied passing the baton to itself. Its fugly Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot now looks like a misunderstood classic when propped up next to subsequent Dunes disasters The Hitcher, TCM: The Beginning, and Friday the 13th. This year’s race entry, A Nightmare on Elm Street, isn’t quite as bad as last year’s Friday remake, but it’s close.
The Dunes movies have a long tradition of pretending to be remakes but acting like sequels. The films happily dispense with the plot and atmosphere—you know, the stuff that made the original films worth remaking—in favor of high body counts and flashy gore. The stock, narcoleptic teens in Nightmare are under so much pressure to get to the goods that they nearly race by the plot altogether, almost working out their entire unbelievable predicament the first time they stand near enough to one another to talk.
“I’ve been having nightmares about this dude.”
“OMG, he’s trying to kill us!”
I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
The story dispensed with, the film becomes a series of dreams and quasi-dreams that allow director Samuel Bayer to showcase his music video chops. Unfortunately, most of the images were done better in the original film and the effect is much like watching someone lip synch. The moves are the same, but nobody’s singing.
The film almost scores points with a ballsy subplot questioning Krueger’s guilt. Did he really do it, or did the Elm Street parents murder the wrong man? Hint: One of these answers would have added an unexpected layer of moral complexity to a teen slasher film. The other is what they went with.
3. Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland represents one of the most lopsided ratios of quality to dollars earned in the history of the film industry. The money sucked up by this piece of trash is sobering and enough to make you wonder just what the hell seeped into the water supply for those few ridiculous weeks at the box office. My problem isn’t just with the film itself, which admittedly has some technical merits if nothing else, but with the awful—borderline hateful—thought process that led to its production.
This abuse of Joseph Campbell has to stop. Not every movie has to be the monomyth. The entire point, indeed the entire existence, of Alice in Wonderland is tied up in the fact that it has no traditional structure. The book is a series of random insanities built around the notion of wordplay and language. The basic story is and should always be: Alice goes to Wonderland, shit is weird there, she gets home with her head.
But, no, there can only be one fantasy plot anymore. You know the one I’m talking about, where the hero has a great destiny but denies the call and takes sage advice before finally stepping up in the end to win the day? Quick, what blockbuster studio movie from 2010 did I just describe? (Hint: a shitload of them.) Instead of Tim Burton’s macabre take on the novel, the film we got is layered with all the depth and lasting value of a theme park ride. Whatever it is, it’s Alice in name only.
And what was Disney’s reward for this travesty, this turd of a film thick with the stink of board rooms and focus groups? We paid for it. We paid and paid and made Alice one of the biggest cash cows of all time. I don’t mind remakes in theory. In 2010 alone, True Grit and The Crazies were remakes that proved it’s possible to equal or better a classic. 2011 will likely produce a few more. But it’s this kind of mercenary crapola in Alice, this rush to grab dollars with nothing but a name and a standard story blueprint, that makes me want to throw up my hands and stop paying so much damned attention.
2. Cop Out
Kevin Smith has been quietly diversifying his portfolio in recent years, trying TV projects and unfamiliar genres, possibly in an attempt to stave off unemployment when his particular brand of New Jersey humor can no longer sustain his fanatics. Cop Out was meant to prove that Smith could direct somebody else’s script, a matter of some importance to someone who makes their living directing films. Unfortunately, he didn’t just fail to translate the script for Cop Out into a good movie. He may have actively ruined what was considered one of the best scripts in Hollywood.
As a film, Cop Out is a flat line. The basic premise fails. I’m not talking about the movie’s nonsensical hunt for a rare baseball card, but the idea that Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan are police detectives and also partners. Willis and Morgan have about fifteen years of age difference between them and zero chemistry, but the script requires they act as if they’ve been partners since cops were invented. It’s simply not credible. Morgan mugs and Willis yawns and it’s impossible to care at all about any of the shenanigans going on around them. Smith throws in a few token nods to his beloved 80s action movies—the score is by Harold Faltermeyer, who composed for Beverly Hills Cop, among others—but that seems to be as far as his inspiration can take him. Smith has railed on critics for torpedoing his film with some kind of personal agenda, forgetting that it was critics who rallied around him when his work was so fresh and inspiring. This isn’t.
The script for Cop Out, then known as A Couple of Dicks, once appeared on the Black List, an annual compilation of the most-liked unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. That means that, at one time, Cop Out was considered one of the ten best scripts floating around a town that is literally drowning in spec ink. The script was handed to Smith because it was thought he knew his way around dialogue comedy. Smith turned it into one of the worst movies of the year. As a resume credit, Smith could have hoped for better.
1. Survival of the Dead
Movie geeks love George Romero because he directed two truly great horror films. Night of the Living Dead and its superior sequel, Dawn of the Dead, are no-question classics, so much greater than the sum of their occasionally clunky parts. (The third film, Day of the Dead, is often overlooked, but hangs with its siblings better than you might expect.)
Guys? Seriously, you guys. We have to stop.
Romero isn’t the same filmmaker anymore. Whatever he once had, it’s just not there. Diary of the Dead, his quasi-reboot of the Dead series, is no better than one of the hundreds of Romero clones shot on the cheap and littering the dregs of the low-budget horror bin. I gave it a pass at the time because I thought (hoped) the “master” was making a statement about exactly that no-budget style of filmmaking, the kind of movie Night would be if it were made today.
But now there’s Survival of the Dead, an overwrought, overacted, and over-important piece of sludge that lampoons America’s political and religious divisions by depicting sheep farmers teaching zombies how to mow the grass. The film’s not-ready-for-daytime-drama cast wanders across an island of zombies in search of a point, and I’m not sure they ever find one.
Film nerds love to jabber about all the Social Commentary in Romero’s films, because we love zombie movies, but not as much as having our love validated by some passing gesture of intelligence. Yes, there is Social Commentary in Romero’s latest zombie film. That doesn’t make it even remotely a good movie. Romero’s Social Commentary has become strident and preachy, a million miles from the biting satire of Dawn or even Day. He’s got a point in Survival, but who cares when the movie is this bad? We film nerds can look for the message and pat ourselves on the back when we find it, but the emporer can’t find his clothes. Or, more accurately, the zombie can’t find any braaaaains.