Monday, December 9, 2013

Worst of the Worst of the Worst

I've just been updating my nerdy "Films Seen" Excel spreadsheet, which now contains 976 entries. (I only include films of which I have some memory-- there are more films I remember seeing, especially when I was a tyke, but about which I remember nothing.)

Of those 976, a mere 78 received the booby prize of one solitary mark. I thought it might be therapeutic to publicly confess some of the dreck I've seen...though I should warn the reader that this list contains quite a few titles of films that other people think are the bees' knees.

Here they are:

Solaris. The one starring George Clooney-- critically lauded but utterly abysmal. I don't think a film is deep just because there's no dialogue and it features lots of people staring glassily into the middle distance.

An awful alien invasion movie. I left early.

The Last Airbender.
This kid's fantasy was so awful I went to the bathroom and when I came back the end credits were rolling, to my great surprise. That's how little indication there was that the end was approaching. And that shows what a feat of story-telling it was.

Underworld: Awakening.
Oh, Kate Beckinsale, the things I do for you!

Tideland. One of my few forays to Dublin's arty and uncomfortable cinema, the IFI. The film was sick, sick, sick. It's about a little girl whose junkie father dies of an overdose, and who ends up living with a deranged transvestite. In other words, the social vision of the Irish Labour Party made into a movie. Directed by Terry Gilliam.

Doom. A film based on a shoot-em-up computer game. I wouldn't be surprised if the computer game had more characterization, depth and good dialogue. Only one good moment in the whole thing; when the Rock shouts, "Semper Fi, mother***er!" as he blasts an alien.

Fantastic Four
. Actually probably one of the least worst on this list. It was at least goofy.

Superman Returns. Hard to believe this got rave reviews. Dire.

Tristran + Isolde. I have literally nothing to say about this awful movie, set in Ireland and Scotland in the Dark Ages.

King Kong. The remake, which was hyped to death since it was Peter Jackson's first film after Lord of the Rings, and the film he always wanted to make. Maybe he should try again. After a fairly good opening hour, it descended into mindless crash-and-bashery.

Mission Impossible 3.
I might have been too hard on this. I wasn't in the mood for mindless action movies at the time. They have their place, though.

Date Movie.
I never eat in the cinema, but I had a bag of Minstrels or some such chocolate as I watched this. I was feeling very depressed and rather luxuriating in my depression at the time. I didn't think it could get any lower than watching Date Movie while eating a bag of chocolates.

X-Men: The Last Stand. Bang, bang, bang. Bang bang. Bang! Bang, bang, bang, bang.

The General Not the Buster Keaton movie, which I've never seen, but a feeble 1998 Irish film about a real-life gangster. This was my single venture into the cinema on my own, between the time of my parents bringing me in my childhood and me attending compulsively from my early twenties on. A pity it was wasted on such a lacklustre picture.

Gosford Park Received great reviews because it was English and because it was set in a country house. Reviewers often mistake films that have classy settings for films that are actually classy.

The Mummy Returns
As far as I can remember, the film that kicked off my great 2001 discovery of the cinema, though I left early. Pity it had to be this one.

Deathwatch Unspeakably dreadful horror film set in the World War One trenches. The only memorable moment came when an officer nonchalantly picks up a rat and throws it away.

Men in Black 2
This is a movie I often name as THE worst I've ever seen. Not because it was incompetent, but because it was all too competent. It was well-acted, professionally scripted, well-produced....and all of it without the slightest glimmer of inspiration or enthusiasm or love. I might say that it was "so good, it's bad" long as "good" is understood in very relative terms.

The Sin Eater
Awful ecclesiastical thriller starring Heath Ledger.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course
Yes, I really went to see this. But in my defence, I left early.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Got good reviews, but was utterly drab and lifeless.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Really, what was I expecting?

Godsend Nondescript supernatural thriller starring Robert de Niro.

Again, received good reviews. Don't ask me why. The Eric Bana one, not the Edward Norton one.

The Matrix Revolutions If you saw it, you'll know what I mean. This despite the fact that I am one of the vanishingly small number of people who think The Matrix Reloaded was a pretty good film, especially the much-mocked scene featuring The Architect.

Veronica Guerin Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. How do films like this get made? It didn't even have enough substance for a half-hour docu-drama. Being an Irish film, it had to start in a Catholic church, even though it had nothing at all to do with religion.

Ladder 49. Schmaltzy drama starring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta as firefighters.

Night Watch. Russian vampire film that was a big hit. Vampires are getting to be a pain in the neck these days. Get it?

Ray. Music biopic of Ray Charles. A clone of pretty much every music biopic ever made, and was deservedly spoofed, along with many others, in the film Walk Hard. Also received inexplicably good reviews.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow I wanted to like this unpretentious retro sci-fi, but I just couldn't. It had nothing going for it at all, beyond some nifty visuals.

The Stepford Wives This, along with The Producers, is one of two Matthew Broderick films that are strong candidates for the worst film I've ever seen. A film without the slightest sprinkling of charm or wit. The fact that it simmered along at a consistent level of competent mediocrity made it even worse.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Milla Jovovich's cheekbones can only make up for so much. I left when I'd seen enough of them.

The Descent. British horor that got rave reviews from the British movie magazines. Utterly vapid and brainless. Do you find things jumping out of shadows to be inexhaustibly scary and interesting? Watch this movie.

Capote. Everyone raved about the wonderful perfomance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Unfortunately the movie itself had as much substance as a half-eaten rice cake.

Jarhead. I have literally nothing to say about this dire army movie.

Proof Genius often falls over the precipice into madness, and women find it tough to be taken seriously in the world of academic mathematics. Now you know everything, literally everything, this movie has to say.

Thank You For Smoking. Brainless, ham-handed satire on the tobbaco industry.

The Producers See The Stepford Wives, above.

Marie Antoinette. Interior decor porn. I left after about twenty minutes.

300. Action flick about the Battle of Thermopylae. Not much fun if you're not into ogling well-muscled male torsos. I left early.

Where the Wild Things Are. Never read the book, but I'd bet my bottom dollar it's done a disservice by this ugly, dispiriting fantasy. Left early.

The Man Who Sued God. The concept of a man who sues the churches when his insurance company won't pay up after his fishing boat is hit by lightning, declaring it an act of God, has potential. Unfortunately, the film took this potential, threw it on the ground, stomped all over it, and then chucked it down an open manhole.

Cheaper By The Dozen. Again-- what was I expecting? Left early.

Burke and Hare. It looks like the crew had a blast making this film. The audience is the one that suffers. Admittedly I am prejudiced against all things Scottish.

Garage. This depressing, sadistic account of a mildly retarded man's life falling apart is, unfortunately, a work of Irish "talent". I went to see it on a date with a girl. It was her idea. That should have been a warning sign.

Cats and Dogs. I took my nieces to this when they were kids. A terrible time was had by all.

Withnail & I. If you are one of those people who relish this depressing, bleak, squalid, hopeless, and ugly film....well, what does it say about you?

Weekend at Bernie's. My little brother and I laughed ourselves sick at this film when we were kids. I saw it again recently and wondered what we could possibly have been thinking.

Carry On Jack &Carry On England I'm a fan (and a defender) of the Carry On series, but there's no defence for these two-- they deserve to be hung, drawn and quartered.

Suspiria. Bought this film, and watched it, because it featured on a list of top ten horror films that I read somewhere. Unfortunately, some critics mistake disgust for horror.

National Lampoon's Class Reunion The first flm that John Hughes scripted. Inspiring viewing for any writer whose initial efforts are disappointing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddie's Revenge
. One time, when my father was in hospital and I was worried he was on his way out, I bought a box set of Nightmare on Elm Street movies to distract myself. It was going cheap. It would have been too expensive at any price. In fact, I'd pay to unsee these movies.

Re-Animator. Terrible horror movie that tries to be funny.

Transformers: The Movie. I was a Transformers nut in my childhood, and wanted to see this movie in the cinema more than anything. I never did. Years later, I bought the DVD, hoping for a sense of closure. Big mistake. Sometiems childhood wonder is best left unrevisited.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Warrior

Phantasm II. I got all the Phantasm horror films in a box set. The first, about a tall undertaker who is actually an alien carting the souls of the dead to his planet, was not bad. The rest (which recycled the same story over and over) were putrid.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Hannibal. The follow up to The Silence of the Lambs. Ugly, nasty, pretentious and boring.

Art School Confidential. A murder mystery set in an art school where all the teachers are nasty, all the students are repellent, and it's hard to care who gets bumped off, or who is bumping them off, or why. Possibly the most mean-spirited movie I've ever seen in my life. And not even in a fun, gleeful kind of way. Makes food poisoning look like a romp.

Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. Not funny, not clever, not anything.

Gandhi. This movie, unbelievably, won the Best Picture Oscar. Like this year's Lincoln, it proves that a movie can have a monumental subject, a painstakingly researched script, big-name stars, and a cast of thousands...and still be staggeringly dull. This film is like the most tedious history class you ever sat through, in an airless class-room, with a blue-bottle buzzing around your desk, and the teacher's monotone sending you to sleep.

Scream 3. The first Scream was, well, a scream. The second was a yelp. This was a hiccup.

The Song Remains the Same. Led Zeppelin are awesome! But not in this movie. It would be an amusing example of seventies rock-god pomposity (it actually features a fantasy sequence in which Robert Plant is a warrior saving a maiden from demons, or something like that) if it wasn't so mind-bendingly boring for most of its running time.

The Great Dictator. Yeah, the Charlie Chaplin "classic". Sue me.

The Titfield Thunderbolt. I watched this after I'd had a tooth pulled out and the anaesthetic was wearing off. It was the perfect accompaniment to that sensation. A "gentle" Ealing comedy, where "gentle" is a synonym for offensively bland. Didn't watch it all.

Se7en. The only good moment in this sick, sick thriller was the part where Morgan Freeman's character reproves the attendants in the Library of Congress (or in some other big library) for playing cards when they are surrounded by so many wonderful books.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I had a flicker of a memory of this movie there...but it's gone. This is the old black and white version, rather than the later Johnny Depp version.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even if I was stoned and carried away on a wave of forced social hilarity, I think I would find this pitifully lame. But I've never been stoned, so I can't say for sure.

Robocop. Yeah, I've heard all the plaudits. It's still awful.

Salome's Last Dance. Dire Ken Russell vanity project. Not much to do with the Oscar Wilde play, Salomé, of which I was a fan.

Fierce Creatures. A Fish Called Wanda is overrated, despite some sublime moments. This follow-up couldn't possibly be underrated, even if you tried to underrate it all day long, furrowing your brow and clenching your fists with the effort.

Scars of Dracula. I'm not actually sure what this is doing on this list. It's dreadful, for sure, but it's a lot of fun. And since it's a Hammer horror, it inevitably has a certain style and charm. It's become something of a cult movie with me and my friend Alan. My general rule is that I only give one mark to films with no redeeming features at all, and I will probably bump this up on the spreadsheet. But I can't bear to remove it from this list, since it's a little break from all the surrounding awfulness.

The Blair Witch Project. The internet has a lot to answer for. It's always a bad sign when a movie is only remembered for one scene.

Blood Simple. I think the Coen Brothers must be the most overrated film-makers on the planet. You can't get by on quirkiness alone, no matter how hard you try. And this is the most feeble of their efforts.

Whew. After all that negativity, I think it might be a tonic to read my review of Groundhog Day, which I consider the best movie of all time.

Or maybe just have a stiff drink.


  1. Your three-sentence review of *Date Movie*, which I have never wanted to see, and which I now want to see even less, was hilarious.
    I would violently disagree with you on *Master and Commander*, but a.) if oneself doesn't know what oneself likes. . .well, who does? and b.) in my case, the movie may have had a bit of an unfair advantage in being filmed on a real sailing-ship, right from the beginning. Without knowing much of anything useful about sailing, I will gladly stare at ships for hours. -Molly

  2. The film was filmed on a ship? Maybe the cast and crew had, I'm just taking a cheap shot there. Maybe I'm just missing something about the film. Everyone else seemed to adore it. But I wonder is it a case of being drawn to the whole atmosphere, like you say? Fans of Patrick O'Brian's books always seem to focus on his knowledge of the subject, and his great research. When the film ended I was left thinking, "What was the story there? What was it about, for crying out loud?". And I have to admit, I'm not at all attracted to the whole world of sea-men and the high seas, so perhaps the opposite creation was operating in me. (So why did I go? The same reason I went to Date Movie, and Crocodile Dundee 3, and the Hannah Montana Movie, and Charlie's Angels 2, and....

  3. I want to have some input on some things:
    For Master and Commander, I didn't think it was a bad film as such but there didn't seem to be a story as such. A few things happened, but there was no one storyline. Just several different things happening.

    About some of the Irish films you mentioned, I notice that anything Irish is hugely overrated. It's like how RTE will say something about Irish "celebrities" , and then they'll mention the name of someone you've never heard of. I don't remember too much about Veronica Guerin, but I do remember it ended with an absolutely horrific chipmunk remix of a traditional Irish song.

    I have seen both the cartoon and film of the Last Airbender. The film is a poor reflection of the quality of the cartoons for several reasons, but I won't bother listing them.

    Date Movie and all the other "Movie" films are some of the worst attempts at comedy I've ever seen. I think these guys got their start with Scary Movie, and then milked it. The only people who could find them funny are easily impressed and immature teenagers.

  4. Well, that's exactly how I felt about Master and Commander. It hardly seemed like a story at all. I felt bemused at the end.

    Irish films DO get too much praise in Ireland, but I think some are really good. Michael Collins is a masterpiece, in my opinion. The Wind That Shakes the Barley. And I saw an Irish comedy film called Zonad a few years ago that was a lot of fun.

    "I do remember it ended with an absolutely horrific chipmunk remix of a traditional Irish song." HA! Yes, but I didn't want to say anything about that because it was a real little kid, who "busked" in Grafton Street-- by singing one line over and over again.

    I have heard that about the Last Airbender cartoon. The film really seemed thrown together.

    Scary Movie is enjoyable if you're willing to enjoy it as the puerile silliness that it is, but the later films don't work even on that level.

  5. You fellows beat me to it on "Master and Commander." I was going to pop back over here and concede that I never did get the impression of a strong story from it; I just enjoyed the atmosphere of the thing so much that that defect never particularly bothered me. I just liked "being" there. Being there vicariously, at any rate. Were I really there, no doubt I'd be the sea-sickest of the lot!

    It's odd you should have mentioned "The Wind that Shakes the Barley." I've been dithering over whether I wanted to watch that ever since it came out (I can't believe that was seven years ago already!) -Molly

  6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is well worth watching. It's quite a gruelling viewing experience, but a very good film. I had an inflated idea of it when it came out, thinking it was one of the very best movies I've ever seen. I don't think that now. But it's still good. Oh, and I know this caution isn't necessary in your case, but just for anyone else reading this, be aware that the director is a Marxist (or a quasi-Marxist at least) and its version of history is partisan and misleading. Of course there is the inevitable scene where the Church is denounced as a pillar of the status quo (although "honourable exceptions" are mentioned). This because the Church spoke against political violence against an established government, as ever.