2014 was a great year for cinema, but needless to say there were more than its fair share of duds. Some movies that didn’t live up to expectations, and some that just leave you wondering what studio agreed to sign off on this? With a list like this, it's hard to not come off as an Internet troll, so I’ve tried my darnedest to at least highlight one or two things about some of the movies that they got right, however brief that may be. Assembling this list might be considered a labor of hate, but I like to think of it as a community service: Think of it as a handy guide to the films you shouldn’t catch up with on VOD. Now, I could have easily done a top 25 worst films of 2014, but it would basically be 40 pages of rants, and I mostly wanted to keep it limited to movies that I know the mass public has at least viewed as opposed to all the Indy films I get sent on a weekly basis to provide critiques for. I should also point out that I don’t go out of my way to see terrible movies, so there might be some films that are not on here due to the sheer fact that I refused to see it. With that said, here are my top 12 most disappointing/worst films of 2014.
12. The Legend of Hercules: Give credit where it’s due. At least Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has charisma. The Legend Of Hercules was always destined to be 2014’s other Hercules movie, second place to the higher-profile, Dwayne Johnson-starring, Brett Ratner-directed (and surprisingly not that bad) Hercules. By contrast, Legend Of Hercules has that-guy-who-was-in-Twilight-no-the-other-guy-no-the-other-other-guy, Kellan Lutz, and yesterday’s cutting-edge action helmer Renny Harlin directs it. But there’s no reason it had to be this bad. What basically results to a bargain-bin journey through an ancient realm of myth, legend, and terrible post-added 3-D. The Legend Of Hercules bets big on what amounts to a huge miscalculation: Though Lutz’s Hercules doesn’t realize he’s a demigod until late in the film, the audience knows this from the jump, pretty much removing all tension from the fight scenes. Who will win? Hercules, durrrrrrr.
11. Dumb and Dumber To: Can someone tell me what has happened to the Farrelly Brothers? It’s as if the Comedy Fairy returned after 10 years to take back the jokes. In this sequel to the original (and very funny) “Dumb and Dumber,” you could actually feel the flop sweat on Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as they flogged this material of what basically amounted to recycling the same jokes from the first movie, for what turned out to be silent movie audiences. This was bad for Daniels, but even worse for Carrey, who is a comic actor and is supposed to know the difference between funny and painful. Sure, his film career will recover, just as someone might recover from hitting himself in the face with a hammer. The trick is not doing that in the first place. To everyone who badmouthed Anchorman 2 as being unfunny and unoriginal. I urge you to watch this first then immediately follow it with Anchorman 2 and then get back to me.
10. Sin City 2: This, like Dumb And Dumber To, is what happens when you wait 10 years to do a sequel, without a fully fleshed out story - and this already had the material to adapt. This was like watching someone slide into unaware self-parody. It can be painful, especially if you’re a fan of the director and writer's prior work. But this grimy, ugly, witless movie would be more than enough to convince me that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have never seen an actual film noir. This is an adolescent in the worst possible way, boob-obsessed (I actually feel bad for Eva Green after this) and without any insight into actual human behavior - film that just perplexes me as to what Rodriguez and Miller were thinking when they thought this was good. Mickey Rourke is still the highlight of the show as the ever-violence-loving Marv, but these stories are all built without punch lines or twists or anything clever. At least Tarantino has the ability to come up with fresh, original stories that work well with his talent behind the camera. Rodriguez has basically been reduced to caricature of his former self, and it’s sad for me to see this, due to how much of a fan I was of the original Sin City.
9. Godzilla: I don’t think any movie could have lived up to the hype built from the trailers this movie was putting out, leading up to its release. I felt like I was trying to convince myself that I liked Godzilla while I was watching it because I felt like I should have liked it. Don’t get me wrong; every scene involving the titular monster was simply awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, he is not on screen for the entire two hours, which makes every scene with any human character make the film’s pace drag like nothing else. None of the human characters are that particularly interesting (except, arguably, Bryan Cranston’s character, but he’s wasted in what is essentially an extended cameo). This film is less terrible, but just disappointing. Here’s hoping Gareth Edwards rights the wrongs with its pending sequel. Give me my King Ghidorah!
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I’m going to get this out of the way right now. I loved the voices and chemistry of the turtles in this. I thought they had their characters nailed perfectly, and I like how this was basically a movie made for fans of the 80’s cartoon, which I was (TURTLE VAN!) With that out of the way, let me now get to the scene on the roof when April first meets the turtles. I should never be concerned that the anthropomorphic animal heroes of a children’s movie are about to sexually assault the heroine.
A lot of people tried to give this movie a pass because it’s “for kids.” First of all, there are plenty of kid’s movies that aren’t garbage. But I think someone forgot to tell the movie its target demographic was 8-14. This is no light-hearted romp through a child-friendly universe, like the recent Nickelodeon reboot. This is a weird and gritty place with guns and biological weapons and over-hyperrealism that is ALSO trying to appeal to kids. By splitting this difference, it ended up a huge dissonant mess where it wasn’t really for ANYONE. I could go into nitpick territory about how April ended up being the turtles' childhood pet-owner and was responsible for their creation, how Splinter’s tail is basically able to throw full grown people at will, and how he learned nin-jitsui from a book in the sewer, etc. The main thing I hate is how this film, along with Michael Bay’s other Darling child-porn-toy-selling series Transformers, is that this is being marketed to kids, but with constant drug, alcohol, and sex references. There’s a thing called common taste and even all these years later, Bay still hasn’t learned.
7. The Judge: Robert Downey Jr. can do anything he wants these days. (Seriously anything). Which simply confuses me and raises this big question of why in Jesus tap dancing Christ, "The Judge" is what he wanted to do. This is a simple case of a movie that just wants to be all things to all audiences; but it's just not funny - it's too clumsily written to jerk even a single tear from even the biggest of softy melodramatic drama movie lovers. And as thrillers go… I’ll just say that it's the opposite of thrilling.
6. Under The Skin: Sadly for ScarJo, she is appearing on this list as well. However, I do not blame any of the problems I have with Under the Skin on her. She is actually quite good in the movie, as someone trying to figure out how the world works. My problems simply lie with everywhere else. Like the slow pace that makes the idea of watching grass grow sound exciting. The ambling and boring nature of the story (i.e. let's drive here and then let's drive here and then let's drive here)... None of it added up to anything for me. It felt like I was just watching a slow, style exercise and could never connect with any of it. It reminded me a lot of this terrible movie Gus Van Sant made years ago called Gerry, which was about Matt Damon being lost in the desert, and that’s it. Every year, I believe there is at least one film that critics think is pretty and they cannot wrap their heads around it entirely, so they hail it as a masterpiece, such as The Tree of Life. This film fits that slot this year. Sorry ScarJo, but no amount of nudity you give me in this film is going to convince me otherwise.
5. The Amazing Spiderman 2: This is how you kill a franchise people, and kill it they did. I will start this entry off by saying that how the filmmakers handled the Gwen Stacy death here was brilliant, and that is such a shame, because most of the other stuff around that moment was just horrible.
I mean where do I even begin with this? How about with the movie being afraid to make Gwen Stacey’s death the main focal point of the film? If you’re going to kill her, Fine! Do it in the first act and make the rest of the movie about Peter having to come to grips with the fact that he killed her, instead making it a 40 second montage of season changes? And have it not be the fact that he didn’t save her before she smacked the ground, but that it was the overall sheer force of him jerking her back to safety that snapped her there by leading to her death. Also, cut out Electro or make him a better villain. Cut out Green Goblin or make him a better villain. Hell, just pick one and focus on their story arc to villainy, and stop making every single Spiderman villain being the result of a freak lab experiment. Do someone like Kingpin, Mysterio... someone who is already evil. I’m serious, Jamie Foxx’s Electro was one bad electricity pun away from being a Joel Schumacher villain. This wasn’t a movie; this was a long ass trailer for “Sinister Six.” A movie we may not even get now due to how much of a financial failure this movie was.
But you know what the major problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is for me? It was that it wanted to be everything to everyone. It tried to be a love story, a snarky comedy, an action film, a family drama, and a summer blockbuster. And in the end, it just felt like a contrived mess that threw far too much at us (which is a lesson they should have fucking learned from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3)! Just sell this character back to Marvel and cut your losses Sony. You’ve got enough problems right now.
4. Annabelle (mini rant): I could’ve very easily included this and Ouija as a single number on this list, but this film just irked me so much more than the latter mostly because of how sold I was on the trailer. (Deep breath)
So you remember that movie The Conjuring? Remember how it was pretty creepy and was “actually for once” based on a true story? Do you also remember how the intro sequence to that film featured a possessed doll named Annabelle? It worked terrifically, mostly because of how director James Wan delegated the possessed doll to five minutes of screen time. Why did he do that you ask? Because if you take even ten seconds longer than that to think about a possessed doll rationally, you realize that there is really nothing scary at all about it (unless you are a child). Even the Child’s Play movies, as fun as they are, are still just that. Fun. Not scary.
So, just imagine how well it worked when the people who made The Conjuring thought they might be able to get lightning to strike twice by making a sort of quasi-like prequel to the original that focused solely on said possessed doll? I’ll tell you - it didn’t work - that is how well it worked.
Now, keep in mind that even going into this, I had a feeling that Annabelle might suck. But the trailers I saw and the love I had for The Conjuring tempted me to the theater, so I tried walking into it with high hopes and give it the benefit of the doubt. To be quite honest, it was sheer fluke that the first movie even worked as well it did. It had many elements we had already seen before, but somehow, it all clicked. Which just shows how good of a horror master the director for that film James Wan is. The same cannot be said for the cliché fest that was Annabelle, however.
So, what was so bad about it? Well, practically everything, really. The story was dull, the doll wasn’t scary - hell, the doll didn’t even fucking move. Probably horror film basic 101: for any film with a killer doll, you make the doll move. I wasn’t expecting Tiffany from Bride Of Chucky, but give me something movie (floating doesn’t count!!!)… Anyways, oh yeah, the acting was as lifeless as the scares, and the film had the gall to try and leave it all open-ended, even though we already FUCKING know the “real doll” is locked away and blah blah blah BLAH!!!!
Listen, I like to think I know what real horror is, so I’m going to level with you all. Dolls are only kind of scary by themselves. Horror has known and used this concept for years. The problem is, we are at a point in horror where it has all been done before, and done much better. You want to watch some “scary doll” movies that actually work? See Magic with Anthony Hopkins, or see the 90’s cult classic, Pin. Hell, theres a really good X-Files haunted doll episode called Chinga that ‘s better than this. Just trust me. Those are some scary ass dolls. Kristen Stewart, on the other hand, could have just played Annabelle, and I would not have even noticed. THAT is how wooden this film is. Not just the doll. The whole fucking film!
3. Transcendence: Of all the movies from 2014 on this list, Transcendence seemed to have the most potential to be the one that would wow people with a good thought-provoking story, a strong cast, and some central heavy themes about where we may be heading, technologically speaking.
What we ended up with, however, was a dull and sluggish movie that brought nothing new to the table and further convinced me that Johnny Depp got his talent sucked out of him a long time ago. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but The Lone Ranger, Tusk (an otherwise great film ruined by Depp) and now this? Really, Johnny? I miss my 90’s Jonny Depp. I had hope with knowing the fact that Christopher Nolan’s long-standing cinematographer Wally Pfister was the director, but aside from a few well-put together shots, it’s clear that there is only one Nolan. Then again, he was just a hired gun for this, and I doubt he would’ve gotten anymore out of this material if he had written it himself, so there is still hope for the director.
But seriously though, Transcendence is just another shitty movie that looked like it might be interesting and ended up being a huge cliché. I really think that Depp may need to be a little more selective with his forthcoming roles, lest we lose all respect for the spectacular career he has built up to this point. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you want a good movie that follows this similar premise, but is just way more entertaining, go watch The Lawnmower Man. (you’ll thank me later)
2. Maleficent (mini rant): Oh Disney…. WHAT have you done? I mean seriously, what on Earth were you thinking here? You took what may be one of your greatest villains of all-time and you ret-conned her into a good guy? Don’t get me wrong, I know in my black heart that this was Disney trying to cash in on the fame of Wicked, and I know that Jolie ”LOOKED” amazing in the role, but outside of that, the film is just a jarring act of redirection from the first Sleeping Beauty. This movie essentially says, “Hey, what we told you last time? Yeah, none of that was true.” That is like remaking Pinocchio, but forgetting to tell us Gepetto was a pedophile until 60 years later… (Ok bad example) What I’m getting at is it’s just stupid, pointless, and makes us not trust the House of Mouse. Add to the fact that the trailers made the movie look fantastic, and you have the perfect recipe for an over-hyped and utterly disappointing film. Juno Temple, Shartlo Copley, and Angelina Jolie all deserve better than this.
This film's attempt at depicting a meaningful relationship between Maleficent and the future Sleeping Beauty, Aurora (Elle Fanning), meant absolutely nothing, and the feminist subtext they tried adding was non-existent. The Maleficent in this is basically nothing more than a rape victim, and spends the rest of the story plotting her revenge in all sorts of really flimsy ways. Worst of all: Maleficent's coolest power, the ability to turn into a fearsome dragon, was robbed of her and given to a male character?!!?! So much of the movie is concerned with how a character had robbed Maleficent of her beautiful wings. But it was the dopey filmmakers behind this oddly structured bore that really took away Maleficent's overall magnificence. You know how Disney claims they have that vault where they store movies? Well, how about they lock this beast down in there forever and we just pretend it never happened? Sound good?
(In a league all its own) Transformers Age Of Extinction: 18% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, most Razzie nominations of the year, end result…. over 1 billion at the box office. Michael Bay is the sheer epitome of critic-proof. I couldn’t bring myself to adding this to the list when in fact, this film transcends bad taste - it has elevated itself from bad, to pure hatred from me.
This film has been battered and beaten, but the terrible reviews haven't stopped "Transformers: Age of Extinction" from becoming one of 2014's biggest blockbusters. It’s almost unfair for me to even attempt to write about it when there are so many well-written articles and videos made deploring this movie.
That being said, those articles and videos are just, as there is a laundry list of reasons why it deserves to be ranked among 2014's worst movies. I could talk about how the plot defies logic time and time again? Or the overly blatant pandering to the Chinese government (one of the world's biggest theatrical markets now)? Maybe the terrible performances of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor? Or, yet again, jokes that seem to be funny only to director Michael Bay, his screenwriters and (maybe) the producers? Or let's talk about the endless product placement in this film, like that scene where Markie Mark literally looks at the camera breaking the fourth wall to take a drink of Bud Light? Or …you know what? I have an idea, instead of watching this, why don't you put a large metal pot over your head and bang it with a wooden spoon for over two and a half hours? That’s a much better idea.
That concludes my list of the worst/most disappointing films of 2014. Below are a few honorable mentions that, while bad in their own right, weren’t so bad to the point that I felt the need to review them. Or they reached the ever-coveted 'so bad it's entertaining to watch' category. With this being the month of January, the movie dumping ground month, I’m sure I’ll see a stinker or two this month. I’m looking at you Liam Neeson (Taken 3?!?!) Seriously, stop taking things from him already. I still have my fingers crossed the person behind this is the son-wolf of the wolf he killed in The Grey thereby linking both movies. Mind blown!
Honorable mentions: Expendables 3, The Giver, The Purge: Anarchy, Ouija, Exodus: Gods And Kings, A Million Ways To Die In The West. I Frankenstein, I Origins, Jessabelle, A Fantastic Fear Of Everything, Left Behind