Alex Stephenson The worst movies of 2012

I hate hating movies. I find no joy in the paragraphs written below, if only because I paid money to see all of these movies, and none of them were worth the time. But as somebody that sees a lot of movies, it is my social responsibility to ensure that you - a person with a life who doesn’t see everything immediately - know which movies to skip past in the poorly designed virtual video store that is Netflix. Below are a list of movies I came, saw, and fucking despised.

Total Recall

Here’s how dumb the people who made this movie are: allegedly, there was at one point a scene featuring a long, scenery-chewing monologue given by Ethan Hawke, probably about memory, or perhaps how he can still remain so heroin chic after two decades in the public eye. This scene was cut from the film, which can only mean that it was too good for this remake. Because every scene that was actually left in the movie bloowwwwwwwsssss. (Save perhaps the moment where Kate Beckinsale violently attacks Colin Farrell by slide tackling him with her vagina.)

The Expendables 2

As somebody who firmly believes Steven Seagal is the finest comedic actor Hollywood has ever produced, I was excited about the announcement of the first Expendables movie. And I actually liked it – Jason Statham never fails to fully commit to absurdity, some of the action was alright, and Eric Roberts was AMAZING. But while the first film embraced its own silliness in earnest, the sequel wanted to make sure you knew it was in on the joke the whole time. And that sucks. All of its self-referencing was grating, particularly Arnold Schwarzenegger continually telling people he’s back, or Chuck Norris telling a Chuck Norris joke. Bruce Willis didn’t appear to even kind of want to be there, and the action was listless and boring. The only good moments were the performances by the people who actually tried: the always wonderful Jason Statham, and Jean Claude Van Damme, who went method with his performance and remained in character on set at all times. I love an unintentional comedy more than most, but The Expendables 2 was intentionally trying to be unintentionally funny, which will never be a successful venture.

Here Comes the Boom

I actually didn’t see this one, but I’m sure it was really awful.

Cosmopolis

There aren’t a lot of movies I hated so much I actually regretted seeing them at all. All of the above movies at least had something that made them not a complete waste of my time. But Cosmopolis was a special kind of suck. Its long, drawn out dialogue scenes were uninteresting, and the movie failed to do anything even kind of interesting in its conclusion. I dislike more David Cronenberg films than I like, but Cosmopolis might be his worst, most boring film yet.

Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood’s return to acting was at times unintentionally hilarious, but most of the time it was just boring and uninteresting. It was Moneyball for people who found Moneyball fundamentally ludicrous, or for humans who like to growl in the place of enunciation. It wants you to take all of your thinking, all of your math, all of your statistics, all of your electronic computer products, and it wants you to get the hell out of its face. It probably should have been called Gran Torino 2: Get Your God Damn Electric Boogaloo Machine Off My Lawn. I cannot recommend this movie to anybody, the lone exception being possibly your grandfather with anger issues.

This is 40

At any point in a film fan’s life, they will get bored with the standard tropes of storytelling in American film, and become more interested in creative uses of form. This is an inarguable truth. This is why critics love things like The Master, and the average person calls it a plotless bore. Judd Apatow is a director who has made enough money for enough people that he is in a place to do whatever he likes, and as a film fan he’s in a place where he has grown weary of form. Apatow is a talented comedic writer, and a smart person. He has directed one of the best films of the past decade. I love Judd’s work, and have from the beginning. This is why This is 40 should have been much better than it is.

I’m pretty confident I’m writing this in a state of disbelief, as if I can’t believe I disliked this movie. I assume that’s how the above paragraph reads. And that’s how I feel; watching This is 40 seemed like the thought process I would go through if Kanye West’s next record turned out to be a collection of ukulele covers of Bananarama songs. I kept asking myself, “Did Judd Apatow really make something I hate?” And he did. There are a few really funny moments throughout, but for the most part the movie is unbearable. It is a collection of scenes involving unlikeable people making unlikeable choices and often screaming at much more likeable people. The film appears to be an experiment in form of sorts; there are a few narrative threads tying the film together, about Pete’s (Paul Rudd) failing record label, and Debbie’s (Leslie Mann) issues with her age, and both characters’ problems with their respective fathers. But all its meandering, and interesting use of a non-structure are undone in the end, with its use of Deus Ex Land Rovers and miraculous Ryan Adams meetings. You can’t make a different, good movie by having it end like every other shitty movie.

I’m still like a stereotypical Apatow character – my life is more similar to a character he used to write than the one he wants to write now – and we’re the type of people that will make fun of this movie. I hate doing it, and I hope that one day this will seem like a good movie. But I’m confident it won’t. I feel like it will remain unlikeable, and I’ll just have to hope what follows will be better.

Safety Not Guaranteed

This movie was atrocious. It tried to be smart and whimsical, but the ending was so bad it made me want to vomit. It wasn’t very funny, was occasionally kind of racist, and the most interesting storyline (that of Jake Johnson’s character) was breezed over in favour of the story of the boring, unlikeable Mark Duplass and his friendship with the slightly less boring, and slightly more likeable Aubrey Plaza. You might see this one day, recognize the girl from Parks & Rec, and that guy from New Girl, and think you might want to watch this movie. Trust me, you don’t.

The Paperboy

I am not completely against movies featuring depressing scenes; I would imagine most people would say my tastes tend to skew a bit dark. But The Paperboy is one of those movies that continually features depressing scenes without ever attempting to even have a point. I recognize that The Paperboy is a film that is meant to be disorienting, and not just in the structure of the film; the way the movie is shot and edited is proof of this. But all of the stylistic choices in both of these aspects of the film seem to have been made up almost entirely on the fly, with no real end idea in mind.

Again, I recognize that these elements are supposed to contribute to the feeling of disorientation in the film. As a fan of Steven Soderbergh, I feel like I shouldn’t criticize these things. But in The Paperboy, these elements never add anything to the whole, and they’re simply not done well enough to justify their inclusion.

You will be unsurprised to learn that I also think the writing is awful. Plot twists are thrown in only to further depress us, and these plot points also make no sense. Time seems to move in an impossible fashion, and the film’s semi-infamous urine gag is pretty much just lifted from a Friends episode… Basically, I hate everything about this movie. I’m mad as hell, and I’m totally going to write about it some more.

The screening I attended was prefaced by an appearance by an affable radio DJ, who excitedly mentioned in his introduction that “All I know is that Zac Efron dances in his underwear in this movie,” which – despite being true – is probably the worst possible way to introduce The Paperboy. The crowd seemed to be in the same boat as this DJ before it began and, after the film was over, I listened to the crowd’s reactions, assuming that they were not fans either. Judging by the reactions throughout the screening, I thought this was a pretty safe bet. But as I listened to conversations on my way out of the theatre, people seemed to hesitate a lot before saying that they “Liked it, but it was weird.” These were things coming from people’s mouths who sounded like they were afraid to tell their friends they didn’t like it. And that’s the worst part about these movies: they beat you into thinking you liked them. So many deaths and rapes later, we have to like them, otherwise we’re not smart, serious people, right? While on paper this logic reads as fuzzy, it’s exactly how people (likely unconsciously) think, which I know because I used to do the same thing. As somebody who once counted Requiem for a Dream as one of my favourite films, and has purchased a copy of 21 Grams, there’s no way I haven’t. Rewatching those movies recently, I saw movies that are better than The Paperboy (if only because they seem to be navigated by coherent thought), but that still aren’t particularly good. They’re entertaining, and they’re emotional, but the latter only stems from how god damn depressing they are. Walking out of the theatre for those movies, maybe I felt compelled to say I “Liked it, but it was weird.” I don’t feel that way anymore, and I haven’t for years. But it really bothers me that some people still do, and I’ll always hate films like The Paperboy for it.

 

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