Forever wishing to give cinema the benefit of the doubt – especially as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo appear to be in such capable hands – I have decided to hold off on judging the year’s best films until I have had the opportunity to catch up on a few more. I feel no such responsibility with making similar conclusions regarding the year’s most unforgivable affronts to the medium of film, however, and with my predictions only proving partially accurate, a few glaring oversights coming back to bore me as the year drew on, here are the top ten movies that left me wishing I could have found my life’s driving passion in sport or music instead.
10. Apollo 18
While it is generally accepted that low-budget found-footage movies will delay the money shot until the last possible moment – when they know for sure how much money they have left to spend on it, no doubt – Apollo 18 takes this rule of thumb to the extreme. Divulging little more about its central trio than that they like barbeques and dislike accidentally rubbing jalapenio juice into their crotches, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego ensures that by the end of our tenure aboard the titular space ship alongside our fellow astronauts we are wishing we could finish them off ourselves. There is a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon, and it appears to be because it was so damn boring the last time.
9. Take Me Home Tonight
What is it about the 80s that provokes such unwavering nostalgia? With Hollywood throwing back with films such as The Rocker and Hot Tub Time Machine, there appears to be a perfectly renewable audience for movies that channel boomboxes, Farrah hair and Back to the Future. Starring Topher Grace, a particularly desperate looking Anna Farris and – in a turn of events that will no doubt turn the world inside out – an overweight comic actor who is even more hateful than Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis combined, this movie is aimed exclusively at the type of person who longs to have been alive in the 80s, where they could “do it” on a trampoline and solve all of life’s problems by riding a giant metal ball into a swimming pool – the director, then.
8. Bad Teacher
Much has been made of the similarities between Bad Teacher and curmudgeonly classic Bad Santa. To me, however, any such comparisons end swiftly with the titular prefix. Where the latter was subversive, witty and oddly charming, Bad Teacher is a one dimensional, derivative and woefully crass exercise in Bad Filmmaking. Cameron Diaz’s Halsey is a bad teacher because she makes her pupils watch TV instead of read books, because she dresses inappropriately at the sponsored car wash and because she plans her next boob-job when she should be marking papers. Hilarious, huh?
7. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
I get it, fat people are funny. Three movies in, though, you might imagine that Regency Enterprise had something more to say – some flesh to add to the premise’s big bones and trademark fat suit. Interpreting this criticism as a categorical need for more fat people to laugh at, the studio has duly provided us with Brandon T. Jackson as the rapper son of Malcolm Turner’s cross-dressing undercover agent. Seriously, with some of the rubbish that has been accepted into Juilliard in recent years, I’m really failing to understand how it is still so prestigious? With Turner having now been in the role for over a decade – A DECADE! – we can only hope that this spells the end of Big Momma’s Franchise.
6. New Year’s Eve
Imagine every base-level romantic comedy you’ve seen in the last 10 years. Now imagine watching them all again, at once, without any of the pleasure – however guilty – and all of the bits that make you wish you could swallow your own face. With dire performances, a self-congratulatorally indulgent narrative and jokes that are almost (but importantly not even) hysterically unfunny, New Year’s Eve is to cinema what the ball drop is apparently to New Yorkers: a hollow and desperately sad piece of pig-ignorant Americana that you can feel actively sucking the splendour out of life, one cameo at a time.
5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
With Megan Fox ostracised for calling MICHAEL BAY a Nazi (Poland must be the only country he hasn’t blown up), and the film’s director echoing star Shia LaBeouf’s admission that the second film really was utter pants, it looked like Transformers: Dark of the Moon was on track to be at least watchable; a first for the franchise. Instead, it was business as usual at the pixel factory as the robots fight, the girl pouts and Sam Witwicky runs, runs as fast as he can lest he pause long enough to have to try on a new facial expression. With the trilogy finally – mercifully – over, perhaps now we can leave Bay to his career-long mid-life crisis and get on tempting our brains out of Autobot-induced hibernation. No, I can’t tell what’s going on in the picture either.
4. Green Lantern
Considering how much time I’ve spent banging on about the merits of silly superheroes (of which Hellboy is still by and far the best), the irony – or is it hypocrasy? – of my distaste for Green Lantern has certainly not gone unnoticed. For while it might forgo the tiresome “darker is better” mantra that has been redefining Hollywood ever since Christopher Nolan cleared his throat with Batman Begins, it is a movie completely lacking in any talent and/or workable humour to offset the story’s resounding hocum. All the talk of the emerald energy of willpower and yellow power of fear is frankly too much, and with appalling special effects to match the script my biggest fear is that Green Lantern might have played right into Nolan’s gritty hands.
3. Cowboys and Aliens
Renamed after Cowboys and Aliens and More Aliens and Convenient Phoenix Metaphors and Indians and Sam Rockwell and God and a Hummingbird performed poorly with test audiences, Cowboys and Aliens was one of the most obnoxious, humourlous and darn right ridiculous movies released his summer. Side-lining Harrison Ford (why? WHY?) in favour of Old Expressionless and Plot Point #4 (dutifully reprising her role from last year’s Tron: Legacy), John Favreau effectively made the anti-Iron Man: a comic book adaptation that took itself far too seriously. Ford is the best thing in Cowboys and Aliens by a good Kessel Run – and that’s coming from someone who really likes hummingbirds.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rather than confronting the issues harmonised by the planet’s critics, Rob Marshall’s apparent overhaul never makes it beneath the surface. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a pale imitation of a once great, and then at least competent, franchise; a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns in action. Shot largely in the dark and depriving Jack Sparrow of a sparring partner (wasting the character in the thankless role of straight man), this latest adaptation of the Disneyland attraction is anything but a roller-coaster ride, providing precisely zero swash for your buckle.
1. Sucker Punch
I forgive you for being enticed by the stylish and action-packed trailer. After all, I was right there with you. It made the film look sleek, layered and, above all, coherent. A squad of asylum inmates escape into an alternate reality, Alice in Wonderland style, and must fight an array of fantastical monsters for a series of items that will lead to their freedom in the real world – sound about right? Turns out, however, that these items were little more than a map from the next room, a lighter from a visiting suit’s pocket, a kitchen knife from their workplace, a key from around their orderly’s neck and a not-so-mysterious “sacrifice”. Not a steampunked zombie Nazi in sight.
Also worthy of mention: The Green Hornet, Red Riding Hood, 30: Minutes or Less, The Three Musketeers, Immortals, Abduction, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, Prom, The Hangover: Part II, Horrible Bosses, Just Go With It.