Dec 24, 2010

2010 in Review: Part 4 - The 10 Worst Films of 2010

So here it is, the low point. On the whole 2010 was no worse than any other year at the movies, but at times it really managed to test my patience, and my love of cinema, to its very limits. As usual the lazy ‘efforts’ of the Hollywood mainstream dominate this list, but there are representatives of the British and Australian industries as well.

Dir: Louis Leterrier
It's barely in 3D, and no titans clash. Somebody should sue for false advertising. Louis Leterrier graced this list in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Tiatns is just as bad; it's an unispired rehash of the well remembered (if not especially good) 1980 film, and boasts yet another teaky leading performance from cinema's woodenest new star Sam Worthington (owner of the amazing globetrotting accent, which can be unconvincingly Australian, American and English, all in the same sentence).

At the cinema 3D rendered this film nigh unwatchable' casting a pointless grey murk over the (decent) cinematography, on DVD it may be prettier crap, but it's still crap.

Dir: Jonathan Lynn
If you're going to attempt farce you had better make sure that you're movie is hilariously funny, because otherwise it's liable to end up shrill and annoying. Guess where this remake of a 1987 French film falls.

Watching it is like watching the cast and crew get down on their knees and, for 90 minutes, beg you to laugh; unfunny, beneath both them and you, and faintly embarrassing. While Daniel Radcliffe seems to want to stretch himself as an actor, Rupert Grint is content to mug his way through this shonky screenplay, doing broad comedy with the grace of a tapdancing elephant. Sitcom director Jonathan Lynn clearly hasn't advanced as a stylist since Yes Minister, and his funny bone appears to have been surgically removed.

Dir: Duncan Ward
The one good thing about Boogie Woogie is pictured; at 40 Heather Graham still looks magnificent, and so do her breasts. Sadly the rest of this film is a grindingly unfunny, hideously acted, 'satire' about the art world.

Gillan Anderson, usually a reliable actress, gives a real howler of a performance as a stupid, stuck up woman who married a rich man (Stellan Skargaard) largely for his ability to buy art. Alan Cumming is at his outrageously camp worst as an unknown artist. However, the worst contribution (and, oh boy, choosing is tough) comes from Danny Huston, who gives his character the most annoying giggle in cinema, which he proceeds to wheel out after EVERY LAST LINE.

Perhaps if you're one of the six people who is in on the joke, BOOGIE WOOGIE is a laugh riot. For the rest of us though...

Dir: The Brothers Strause
It's always nice to see independent filmmakers try to play Hollywood at their own game, but amazingly The Brothers Strause (and I'm just going to leave the stunning pretentiousness of that credit to speak for itself) have managed to come up with something so witless that it makes even Hollywood's stupidest efforts seem like the work of Mensa board members. The special effects aren't terrible, but like everything else they are incredibly derivative of other, considerably better films.

What's really broken here is the writing, and the godawful acting from a cast of newcomers and overreaching TV stars (the shovel faced Eric Balfour gives a performance wooden enough to be mistaken for a tree). The tedium is the killer, for most of the film's running time characters watch an alien invasion happen outside, it's like watching people watch a shitty sci-fi movie. This would perhaps be impressively meta if the brothers Strause had done it on purpose, but I doubt they did.

DIR: Joanna Hogg
Upper middle class twats on holiday: The Movie. I didn't just hate Archipelago as a film (though from the insufferable screenplay to Joanna Hogg's total inability to make a shot that looks good, thanks to the drab use of natural lighting, to the often histrionic performances, I sure as hell hated it as a film), I hated the characters. Not just disliked - HATED - wanted to punch each and every one of them in their smug, self-regarding, entitled faces. I'd leave a party or cross a street to avoid these people (especially the horrendous harpy of a daughter) so being stuck in a dark room with them for 100 minutes was like having my nails pulled out with rusty pliers.

There's not a moment of insight, not a moment of wit, not a moment of intelligence, not a moment I wasn't cross.

Dir: Warwick Thornton
Until you have seen Samson And Delilah, you do not know boredom. This is an Australian film about two teenagers who run away together. Samson spends all his time sniffing gasoline, and Delilah... pretty much does nothing. They never exchange a single word. In this beautiful looking film, Warwick Thornton almost manages to turn bludgeoning tedium into some sort of zen artform (especially in regard to the single refrain that Samson's brother and his band play ENDLESSLY for about a third of the film). His dedication to having absolutely nothing happen is almost impressive when Delilah is kidnapped, she doesn't bother to scream, and after a few minutes she turns up, battered, but says not one word about what happened.

We're actually supposed to root for these characters to have a relationship, to feel some sort of connection between them, which is completely laughable, both because Delilah spends the early part of the film avoiding Samson and because THEY NEVER FUCKING SPEAK. It's like watching paint dry. Only slower.

Dir: Sylvester Stallone
Was ever a film more aptly titled? Sylvester Stallone's big 80's style action blowout was the dampest of squibs, hobbled by an awful screenplay, leads who can barely talk (Stallone and Dolph Lundgren, grunting at one another in scene after scene) and some of the worst editing I've ever seen in a major release.

Dear God, the editing. It was as if Stallone had had the film cut by having the cast fire machine guns at the footage and then had the random bits of film pulled out a skip and spliced together by blindfolded twelve year olds, using only their feet. This rendered the film utterly pointless, because the action scenes were so badly cut that at one point I thought Jet Li was fighting, and it turned out to be Randy Coture. Stallone wanted to make a throwback, and he did, but he forgot that as well as being stupid, loud and violent, the 80's action movies people loved were fun (and at least a little coherent).

Dir: Neil LaBute
What the holy hell happened to Neil LaBute? This guy made the caustic masterpiece In The Company Of Men, and underrated films like Your Friends And Neighbours, Nurse Betty and The Shape Of Things. Seriously, did aliens come in the night and suck out all his talent and self respect? That's the only way to explain the fact that he's lowered himself to this; a grindingly, punishingly unfunny remake of an already grindingly, punishingly unfunny British film, which is only three years old.

This horrendous film revolves around people screeching at each other at a funeral. Punchlines, if such a thing ever troubled the script, are largely drowned out by shrieking. One scene consists entirely of Danny Glover and Tracy Morgan screaming as 'hilariously' Morgan gets his hand stuck under a toilet seat, and Glover shits in it. This is perhaps the most apt metaphor for the film as a whole, it's as if you held out your hand to LaBute, expecting to be handed a witty, caustic, comedy replete with quotable dialogue and instead of that he's just clenched and handed over the results.

I've illustrated this with a still of Zoe Saldana as some small recompense for again alerting you to the fact of this film's existence. You are now free to again pretend it never happened, I'm going to.

Dir: Andy Tennant
Watching The Bounty Hunter was water torture for my sanity. Each horrible joke, each predictable plot turn, each awful piece of acting and each time I was reminded of a better movie, and wanted to yell: "Why can't we be watching Midnight Run?" taking the place of the steady drip, drip, drip, making it feel as though this awful, awful movie was slowly burrowing itself into my head.

If you never saw Midnight Run it's a great comic road movie with Robert DeNiro as a bounty hunter taking Charles Grodin back to answer his parole. Now imagine that, but with Gerard Butler as DeNiro and Jennifer Aniston as Grodin, and here's the genius twist... they used to be married. Died inside yet? Gosh, what do you think happens in this movie? Could they possibly start out fighting like cat and dog, then does one of them trick the other by flirting with them, but totally unexpectedly tie them to the bed, oh and do they end up back together, despite clearly hating each other's guts? You bet your fucking arse they do, because Andy Tennant has the imagination of a brain dead gibbon.

It looks as uninspired as it plays, and the performances by Butler and Aniston are mind-bendingly awful. It is, overall, the kind of romantic comedy that could cause you to stop believing in love, and indeed in mainstream cinema.

Dir: Samuel Bayer
This is the worst Nightmare on Elm Street film. To appreciate the gravity of that statement you really have to have seen (well, survived without clawing your eyes from their sockets while screaming for mercy and beseeching the director to tell you what exactly you did to her and her family) Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which is almost certainly one of the worst films of the 1990's. So, this film is worse than that one; than the one where Freddy dresses up as the wicked witch of the west. So, yes, we're talking about a very special sort of awful here.

Music video director Samuel Bayer (who did the irritatingly ubiquitous, and in no way good, video for Smells Like Teen Spirit) makes a truly shocking debut. Oh the pictures are pretty enough, but those are not in any way personal, conforming rigidly to the look that every Michael Bay produced horror remake since the abysmal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has followed, right down to the sickly green tint which seems to now be the universal colour signifier for 'shitty horror remake'. What you can blame Bayer for is twofold; first he, along with the producers, signed off the fundamentally broken document I assume they called a screenplay on set and secondly, and perhaps more damningly, Bayer directed the cast.

Dear Holy Christ on a bicycle, these performances are awful. Rooney Mara (next to be seen as Lisbeth Salander in another remake the world doesn't need) gives one of the most inexpressive performances I've ever seen. She has the air of a glove puppet being operated by a paraplegic, setting her face in a determinedly vacant repose that only ever suggests one thought... "Line?" That's not to say that Mara is even notably bad among this cast, all the younger actors (all 24 playing 17) are absolutely appalling (Mara's chemistry with Kyle Gallner being especially laughable), but she's playing Nancy, here reduced from the spunky heroine of the original to a useless husk of a character with more eye makeup than braincells.

Freddy is the most dispiriting thing though; not so wisecracking his way through the movie with dialogue composed entirely of non-sequiters and performed by Jackie Earle Haley as Watchmen's Rorschach after a night spent gargling gravel.

It's not scary, it's not clever, it's not fun, it's appallingly made (with some effects worse than those in the original) it makes less than no sense. It's essentially like watching Samuel Bayer dance on Wes Craven's grave, and he hasn't even had the common fucking decency to wait until Craven's dead.

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