Before we get to the good stuff in terms of the crop of movies in 2013, there's a little housekeeping to do, in terms of taking out the trash. While most of the films in any given year are at least watchable, passable entertainment, and some even good to great, there are always those horrific films that are released – nay, escape – to inflict their incompetence onto an unwitting audience. These are the films this year that made us reconsider what we do here.
2014 Calvin Awards: Worst Picture
By Reagen Sulewski
February 12, 2014
The producers of Movie 43 would like to inform you that this effort from them, if that is indeed the accurate word, is a real and true movie. I mean, they put the word right there in the title, and they wouldn't be able to lie about that kind of thing, would they? On that basis then, that this technically is a movie, we feel justified in honoring it with the Calvin for the worst picture of 2013, in a runaway.
A collection of skits in the vein of Kentucky Fried Movie, this was the work of 12 different directors, all of whom collaborated to produce a completely unenjoyable experience that is more endured than viewed. Each of the vignettes delights in being as offensive as the imagination of their creators can make, but unfortunately for us, their imaginations were rather limited, and/or stuck in the mindset of a 12-year-old boy who just discovered his first Playboy. Just by accident, you would think this movie would be funnier, but instead we're left gobsmacked as (for example) Halle Berry makes guacamole with giant fake prosthetic breasts or Elizabeth Banks gets sprayed by gallons of cat pee (I mean, do I have to elaborate any on that?), and expected to find this hysterical. I laughed more during some Ingmar Bergman films.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this film is the amount of really talented actors that agreed to appear in such dreadful material, including a number of Oscar winners and nominees, and genuinely funny people, who must have known better. It's a legendary film in Hollywood circles, as it took years to film due to the difficulty in arranging schedules. Supposedly most of the participants did so as favors, which I interpret to mean, “Yes, I burned the negatives”. Everyone involved in this film should probably be banned from even telling jokes for a couple of years, such is the residual psychic damage they've done to the concept of comedy.
While expectations for a fifth Die Hard movie would naturally be pretty low to begin with, A Good Day To Die Hard managed to fall well, well, well under those. The trajectory of these films has screamed towards the ground, leaving a crater the size of a downed helicopter. This sequel sent John McClane to Russia, but stripped the character of all its interesting parts, basically turning him into American Action Man and amping up the action to such cartoonish degrees that it was impossible to take this seriously. While the Die Hard series has always been on the extreme end of action, it's never asked us to believe that McClane was Bugs Bunny, like this film seems to do. Ridiculous reversals of fortune that require us to believe that the main villain meant to be put in mortal danger multiple times turn this once noble franchise into exactly the kind of film it was reacting to when the first one came out in 1988.
M. Night Shyamalan is basically the Martin Scorsese of this category, in that any time he shows up with a film, he can reasonably expect to be in contention. After Earth gets him into third place this year, while simultaneously dragging down a major star with him. Will Smith (who admittedly bares some responsibility for this as a vanity project) and his son Jaden star in a movie set in a distant future where humans have left the planet, but must return to on a rescue mission. This is extra dangerous, because everything on the planet has evolved to eat humans (How? If there's no humans, that's a crazy evolutional choice, because... oh, to hell with it). The movie is filled with a bunch of “futuristic” touches like goofy names (Cypher Raige? Are you kidding me?) and bizarre accents that show it was more interested in world building than in actually making an entertaining story. Add in some terrible, wooden acting and a Scientology connection, and we're dealing with a pile of pure crap.
Young adult novels, particularly those with a number of entries, are being turned into potential movie franchises by the shovelful these days, although few get to the second entry. Beautiful Creatures, our fourth worst film of 2013, will be one of those that's one and done, thanks to both financial and artistic failures. Things start off bad with the accents – set in South Carolina, we are immediately assaulted with a southern accent that's like a deflating bagpipe, and things just get worse from there. So campy that a Boy Scout Jamboree almost arises spontaneously, and with a judicious use of all $18 of the film's special effects budget, we are treated to what amounts to a Nickelodeon version of a Tennessee Williams play via Twilight. Thankfully, it seems even teenagers are expecting better these days.
In a fitting result, fifth spot goes to Grown Ups 2, matching the position of the first Grown Ups movie from 2010. It's essentially a retread of the first movie, but with lazy bodily function jokes cranked up to 11. Rarely has an Adam Sandler film been this lazy, with basic film making skills ignored in service of whatever the hell thing he and his buddies thought up on the day. At some point, Sandler's audience has to feel a bit insulted, but perhaps they, too, have lost the capacity for shame.
Sixth spot goes to Getaway, which made the bold choice of being a car chase movie filled with exactly zero dramatic tension or interesting driving scenes. Perhaps that's for the best, as we weren't really buying Ethan Hawke as a world-class race car driver, and Selena Gomez's petulance as a kidnap victim wasn't buying her any sympathy. Anything exciting probably would have seemed out of place.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters finished seventh, as MTV's attempt to jazz up fairy tales for the 20 something audience took the opposite approach as Getaway, throwing together so many action scenes that they all blend together in a mush of gore and gunshot. Wait, did I say gunshots? In medieval times? Yeah, the film also has open contempt for the idea of anachronism, not to mention coherency and plot relevance.
Harmony Korine's latest ode to bacchanalia excess, Spring Breakers, grabs eighth spot. Literally a quarter of the movie seems devoted to slow motion shots of naked and half naked college students over a dubstep soundtrack, although that's superior to the actual plot, which involves a ludicrously implausible heist and some of the most thoroughly repellent characters in cinematic history. And I'm not even talking about the drug dealing psycho, here.
Ninth spot goes to Star Trek Into Darkness, which decided to remake one of the classic Star Trek movie plots, but went about it in a completely ham-handed way, flipping plot points just for irony's sake and just generally treading all over the good name of the series. And the lens flare just has to be deliberate antagonism at this point, right?
Rounding out the category is The Host, the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's first novel, pre-Twilight. Filled to the brim with idiot plot and sleepwalking performances, it is an infinitely mockable film and carries on Meyer's legacy of creating horrible books that make horrible movies.
2014 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music