Movie critics are usually punished more often than they are treated. I was surprised to hear a journalist refer to last year as a particularly good one as far as new movies are concerned—I think I had just sat through a showing of “A Madea Christmas” at the time, and was still shaken that Larry the Cable Guy was the picture’s class act.
So I worked up a list of some of the least entertaining films I saw in 2013, and I’ve described them below in reverse order of their quality, so that the worst of them comes last.
“World War Z” is probably the only movie I ever heard of that studio meddling helped. Reportedly the money guys were aghast when they saw the international zombie thriller with a social conscience that Director Marc Forster had turned out. Months after the filming, they sent him and star Brad Pitt back to make a long ending sequence (derived from “Alien” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”) that absolutely saves the film.
Mark Wahlberg turned producer to do “Broken City,” in which he starred as private detective. He’s been hired to follow the mayor’s wife during a campaign. Turns out Wahlberg’s character’s girlfriend, an aspiring film actress, is as promiscuous as he is lead to believe the mayor’s spouse is. The movie takes its convoluted story deathly serious.
Saying that “Battle of the Year” is a step up from the “Step Up” movies is damning with faint praise. The story is about a basketball coach teaching break-dancers how to compete at the international level. If that makes sense to you, you won’t understand why the movie stinks.
“Fast and Furious 6” revives the character played by Michelle Rodriguez, who was killed in an earlier series unit. As the franchise had used up all its makers’ ideas before “F and F 1” was over, and as the action in the new film, though it is always colorful, is just plain silly, one wonders why Rodriguez agreed to be written back in.
Movies about finance are always mistakes. “The Wolf of Wall Street” tries to make itself exciting by including scenes of sexual and drug-taking orgies. But it turns out that those sequences are so much more fun than is anything else in this long, long movie that moviegoers begin to nap five minutes after the last coked-up hooker disappears from the screen.
“The Butler” is a maudlin film recalling the events of the improvement in U.S. race relations during the twentieth century, following a White House butler as it does so. It can’t actually arrive at a resolution of its central problem—that African-Americans have been discriminated against—because some writers seem to need the Civil Rights movement to be on-going. So there isn’t any plot resolution—just a character’s retirement and a rolling of credits.
Vince Vaughn has been a central figure in a lot of forgettable movies—can you remember “Fred Claus”? But “Delivery Man,” about a sperm donor who has mistakenly been used to generate over a hundred new lives, is the most nonsensical of them all. In the end it resolves none of its complications and, spoiler alert, Vaughn’s character wins a defamation law suit because the donor has been made fun of in public. This is despite the fact that he hasn’t been identified as the donor. Heck, the court could have ordered the sperm bank to pay you.
“Before Midnight” is the third in a series of movies about single, chatty days in the lives of two lovers, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy. By now they are married. Oh! How we yammered, on nights after we were wed! This would be OK if they talked about anything interesting or were possessors of terrific conversational style. But no.
The weakest Madea movie Tyler Perry has made is “A Madea Christmas.” Here’s the most basic problem with the film: Madea is herself (himself?) a bully, and has been in her earlier films. Now the huge old bird announces her solidarity with the victims of bullying. As long as the bullies aren’t her. Had enough of bullying as a hot national issue?
In most years “After Earth” would be the worst general release movie in twelve months. It stars father and son, Will and Jaden Smith and was directed by by M. Knight Shyamalan. Will was apparently responsible for the nothing story about the dangers of crash landing in space. Shyamalan seems to have goofed up the filming of all of the action. Nothing works in this brief and predictable film.
But the worst movie I saw this year, “Elysium,” was not predictable at all. Oh, I guess we could have figured that Neil Blomkamp, who made “District 9,” would revive the idea of a huge space ship hovering over Earth. But who knew his politics would have him making health care available only to those in the ship. The plot, which frequently prompts audience members to shake their heads in astonishment, has Matt Damon trying to fly up to the hospital island in the air, which seems to be about as difficult to do as using the government’s health care web site.
Those are some pretty bad movies. But they aren’t unintentionally funny enough that I can imagine anyone wanting to watch them again. Ever. Good riddance, cinematic 2013.