It’s still a bit early to publish my list of 2013’s best movies (I still have to squeeze in last minute viewings of a few notable candidates) but it’s about that time of year where the worst films of the year deserve to be shamed. Like most years 2013 has been patchy at the multiplex, boasting more than its fair share of dogs. Movies that just missed a place on this ignoble list include Marvel’s empty-calorie sequel “Thor: The Dark World”, colossal box-office turkey “R.I.P.D” and Aubrey Plaza’s painful anti-comedy “The To Do List”. All of those movies sucked unequivocally (although “The Dark World” is somehow sporting a 65% Rotten Tomatoes score – truly bemusing) but even they weren't shoddy enough to make the final cut. So without further ado, let’s go. Here are the worst films of 2013.
Dishonourable Mentions: Thor: The Dark World, R.I.P.D, The To Do List, The Canyons, The Call
Director – Franck Khalfoun
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 47%
A truly soulless slasher, coated in blood, misogyny and ugly cinematography, with only some inventive POV shots to prevent it from falling further down this list. As a serial killer with severe psychological issues Elijah Wood is too soft and forced to convince, dialling up a clichéd, snivelling weirdo routine to help compensate for the fact he’s virtually never onscreen. Franck Khalfoun would probably argue his picture gives insights into the fractured mind of a victim turned perpetrator, but in reality it’s a hollow, unexciting and exploitative exercise in genre semantics. “Maniac” has nothing to say of any substance, gratuitous nudity and violence being the unfortunate fall-back devices.
Director – Andreas Muschietti
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 66%
As a horror fan nothing pleases me more than a good old fashioned ghost story, replete with creaking floorboards, spectral menace and scream queen casting. On the surface “Mama” purports to boast all these things, yet few films have tested my patience more this year. An endurance test from the offset, “Mama” confuses the uninspired with homage, serving up a story stuffed to the brim with predictable scares and unlikable characters, including a cold and unappealing Jessica Chastain. According to its distributors the movie runs for a reasonable 100 minutes, but it feels infinitely longer and less rewarding in the moment. Tired and terminally unexciting, “Mama” is good only for the bed-wetting contingent.
8. Man of Steel
Director: Zach Snyder
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
Zach Snyder indulges all of his worst tendencies here. His attempts to humanise Superman during the opening hour are noble but fail miserably, recycling the tortured soul routine with zero editorial rhythm or interest. The second and third acts are crushingly awful, ramping up the hollow videogame aesthetic, underlining the lack of humanity as characters and cities are decimated inconsequentially by legions of CGI action figures. The ending provides no catharsis – quite something given that Snyder attempts to utilise the hero’s paternal and romantic relationships in pursuit of a beating heart. He never finds one and the journey to the climax is utterly exhausting – forcing us to spend far too much screen-time with undefined supporting players. Beyond his stacked physique, Henry Cavill doesn't cut it in the titular role.
7. Olympus Has Fallen
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
“White House Down” may have tanked, but it was certainly 2013’s superior White House invasion thriller. This nasty substitute has a charmless Gerard Butler doing an awful John McClane impersonation, whilst Aaron Eckhart whinges unbearably in the background. Humourless with a sour streak running through its knife-centric combat, “Olympus Has Fallen” dumbly attempts to convey a sense of global awareness through its use of Korean villains. It’s a brash move, but not one supported by Fuqua’s obsession with cheap, bloody money-shots and nails on a blackboard style dialogue. Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Ashley Judd all coast embarrassingly in tiny fringe parts, lending gravitas only to the film’s marketing campaign. Nobody’s good enough to actually imbue this unfortunate creation with legitimate artistic integrity after all.
6. Texas Chainsaw
Director: John Luessenhop
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Now we’re getting to the really stinky stuff. Another unnecessary extension of a once proud genre legacy, “Texas Chainsaw” was clearly pieced together with no passion or understanding of the Tobe Hooper original. The film’s pedestrian set-pieces and Abercrombie cast actively offend, with incredibly dumb gaps in logic keeping the thing strung together. Nobody behaves like a real person, whilst John Luessenhop’s mechanical direction is a million miles away from the 70s grunge of Hooper’s nightmare. You’ll see where it’s all headed long before the movie wants you to, but it doesn't make the twist ending any less egregious.
5. G.I Joe: Retaliation
Director: Jon Chu
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 28%
Probably the year’s least demanded sequel, the long-delayed “Retaliation” finally arrived in March to bore audiences worldwide. Contrived plotting and thin characters are a given, but director Jon Chu ladles on incomprehensible action, vanilla production design and casual sexism for further devastating effect. At no point does the film’s story begin to engage, rendering both Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis as talking props. It’s the wet-dream of an especially unimaginative 12-year old boy, brought to life with a fetish for CGI and insanely loud noises. Channing Tatum was wise to get out when he did.
4. A Belfast Story
Director: Nathan Todd Sims
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 14 %
As somebody who holds Belfast very close to his heart, this atrocity was beyond disappointing. Packed with dopey, flighty monologues and no sense of purpose, this cheerless tale of community division makes most late-night TV procedurals looks like intricately constructed noirs. Colm Meaney sleepwalks through the plot, whilst Nathan Sims’s direction lacks polish or style. On a purely superficial level it’s easily the most amateurish picture 2013 offered; that it received a cinema release in the UK – no matter how limited – is deeply confusing.
3. Movie 43
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4%
A bevy of stars including Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere and Justin Long have all publically distanced themselves from this comedy anthology. Nearly a full year on, no film has quite managed to incense the critical community like “Movie 43”, an indulgent and surreally unfunny parade of fart, sex and poop jokes. Constructed with a witless framing device, the film seemingly exists only to to embarrass its cast and directors, all of whom turn in career worst work. It’s hard to select a concrete nadir, but watching Chloe Grace Moretz fret over a period (interesting that she also headlined a subpar “Carrie” retread this year) or Chris Pratt try to shit on Anna Faris for sexual pleasure are difficult to top for sheer miscalculated awfulness.The film attempts several jokes per minute and barely lands a giggle. That’s an appalling batting average.
2. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 15%
Based on the trailers this ramshackle fantasy had potential, but in execution it’s a direly pieced together escapade. In the leading roles both Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner look dazed, shuffling through cheap sets and feeble storytelling. Wirkola’s directorial work is inept and artistically meritless. “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” isn't just a poorly made movie, it’s a feature that wrestles with basic cinematic literacy. It has no over-arching tone. Scenes and subplots collapse around each other, denying the picture an editorial identity. The action is messily assembled and more often than not incomprehensible. The dweeb from “Project X” disturbingly fondles Arterton’s assets whilst she is unconscious and laughs at an innocent man exploding in a cloud of viscera. Tasteless and truly thankless to endure.
1. Grown Ups 2
Director: Dennis Dugan
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 7%
A hideous creation that renders its lacklustre forefather a masterpiece by comparison. Aiming to advertise supermarket chains, encourage mild racism and cultivate a repugnant relationship with the fairer sex, “Grown Ups 2” isn't just incompetent and mirthless, it’s also deeply troubling. Watching a selection of once talented middle-aged men (except Kevin James – he was never talented) slum it for easy cash is bad enough, but observing the crass levels to which they’ll sink for a buck is disgusting. Sandler prostitutes his brand shamelessly, barely bothering to register any shred of narrative, instead forcing the action to traverse a series of urine soaked skits. Sickening sentimentally and a masturbatory attitude toward middle-class, nuclear life are all that matter here. Except boobs. Boy howdy does “Grown Ups 2” love boobies. Not women. Just boobs. Maybe “Movie 43” wasn't so bad.
An Article by Daniel Kelly, 2013