If a film is so bad that I can’t make it all the way through to the end, then it automatically qualifies as one of the year’s worst. This year found me making a mad dash for the exit midway (or earlier) during three movies: Delivery Man, Evil Dead, and Madea’s Family Christmas.
San Diego viewers were spared the worst film I saw this year. That ignominious distinction goes to Dead Before Dawn 3D, an amateurish horror film that I attended the red-carpet premiere of in L.A. Sid Grauman would vomit blood if he knew the kind of dreck that was desecrating his once-hallowed grounds.
The review embargo prohibits me from mentioning the name of one monumentally awful film that would surely have made the list had the studio not deemed it wise to pull back its Christmas release date for a 2014 opening. I attended an advance Neilsen preview while in L.A., and short of starting from scratch it's impossible to imagine them salvaging this mess. On the up side, I enter 2014 needing only nine films to complete next year's ten-worst list.
More good news news: 2013's one franchise that mercifully wasn’t meant to be, Beautiful Creatures.
Here are a half-dozen films that you liked and I spiked: Richard Linklater's Before Midnight; Jeff Nichols' Mud; Destin Cretton's Short Term 12; Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity; Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave; and Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color.
This year's Spielberg Award for lying to an audience in order to wring sympathy goes to Ryan Coogler's shamefully manipulative Fruitvale Station.
2013 saw three dramas that were funnier that all of this year's intentional comedies combined: Lasse Hallstrom's Safe Haven, Killing Season, and Battle of the Year 3D.
The most satisfying moment in a bad movie came when Katherine Heigl, speaking for all of us, used Robert De Niro as a vomit receptacle in The Big Wedding.
Speaking of Bobby D., the notorious whore actually proved he still has what it takes to scare the crap out of an audience during his five-minute cameo in American Hustle. Too bad completests were forced to slog through TBW, The Family, The Killing Season, and to a lesser extent Last Vegas and Grudge Match before reaching the pinnacle.
Here are ten films (and another ten for good measure) that — once the restless leg syndrome kicked in — saw me pulling an Astaire inside the multiplex. All but eight of the choices were reviewed in the pages of The Reader. Click on the links and let the bile flow.
10) Sebastián Cordero's Europa Report.
9) Paul Weitz's Admission.
8) Robert Schwentke's R.I.P.D.
7) Stephen Low's Rocky Mountain Express.
The Reuben Fleet Science Center is one of Balboa Park’s standout attractions, an ideal learning destination that connects education and entertainment in a manner that you and the family are bound to enjoy. (Can you sense from all the sucking up that the other shoe store is about to drop?) Projecting a film on the inside of a band shell is the most useless technological advancement since the Lumière Bros. invented the Cinematographe. Can’t you scientists at the Fleet at least figure out a way to paint over the glaring stitching? The presentation is generally so distracting that during daylight scenes one spends more time looking at the seams that hold together the panels of the dome screen than paying attention to the movie.
A narrative might help, but the subject matter of your typical IMAX short is pitched somewhere between a high school science class and a segment from the Disney Wildlife Adventure series. Rocky Mountain Express was an endurance test that at 47 minutes felt like sitting through a double-feature of Fanny and Alexander and the roadshow version of Ryan’s Daughter. With a canvas this size, what is the point of filming everything in close-ups so tight you can count the engineer’s nosehair?
The Center needs to move into the 21st Century by doing away with their Mesozoic domed (waste of) Space Theatre. Re-rig the place with a flat, floor-to-ceiling screen. That way you can still show the creaky science films as well as branching off into newer, dare I say, more daring programing.
6) John Moore's A Good Day to Die Hard.
5) Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha.
It had been years since last I saw Lauren, my daughter from another mother and father, so when we hooked up in L.A. earlier this year, it was only right that the two of us took in a picture together. After all, I was the first civilian allowed to take Lauren to a movie without her parents. The joke was on her: the film was Hook, spielberg’s nadir.
After coffee with her mom, aunt, and younger sister, Lauren and I headed over to the Sunset 5 to spend a few hours with Frances Ha. Ha? I’m not laughing. What a gray insignificant little nothing of a film centered around this year’s most self-absorbed and least engaging titular hero. Baumbach's ode to the French New Wave once again hammers home the thought that imitation is the sincerest form of failure.
Of course I took it personally — I hadn’t seen the kid in a decade and this is how we waste our one afternoon together? — and flew into a rage on the ride home. It must have been a particularly good tirade. At one point, I looked over at Lauren and saw tears of laughter streaming down her cheeks. A similar ride home from Never Never Land stuck in her memory. “God,” she cried, “I do miss going to movies with you.”
4) Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's This Is the End.
3) Seth Gordon's Identity Thief.
2) Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Brett Ratner, Jonathan van Tulleken, and Bob Odenkirk's Movie 43.
1) Haifaa Al-Mansour's Wadjda.
Runners up: Anita Doron's The Lesser Blessed; Paul Andrew Williams' Unfinished Song; Raúl Marchand Sánchez’s Broche de Oro; David E. Talbert's Baggage Claim; John M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation; James Demonaco's The Purge; Tina Gordon Chism's Peeples; Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyer's Club; Tommy Wirkola's Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; and Courtney Solomon's Getaway.
Watch for my ten-best list before 2013 becomes a fading memory.