1 January 2014

The worst films of 2013

There's a very valid point of view that as a film fan you should be able to find something to like in every film. As happily as that applies most of the time, there will always be films that either don't live up to expectations or you flat out don't like. Regardless of how much you want to celebrate film there's always a need for criticism, and besides, as this is a film blog, it's as useful to understand what the author doesn't like as much as what they do. These then are the films I liked least in 2013, split out as the plain worst and the most disappointing:

The worst films of 2013:

A Field In England

In my review of Sightseers last year (read that here) I commented how director Ben Wheatley has a good visual eye but desperately needs to figure out how to tell a story, and a decent one at that. Yet again he's fallen into the same trap, but this time with a story so inanely boring it's a miracle I stayed with the film for it's duration. The acting here is sub amateur dramatic awful, the writing and story nonsensical and the entire setting just a field, meaning the film is entirely reliant on the aforementioned aspects. The only moments of mild interest appear during a psychedelic visual freak-out that is enhanced by the monochrome cinematography. This year we saw the best thing Wheatley's produced, Unearthed, his exciting and creative few minute long segment in The ABC's of Death. A Field In England is the absolute antithesis - the most lifeless and boring film I've seen in a long time and easily the worst thing "the most over-rated director in Britain" has produced.

A Good Day To Die Hard

I don't think anyone was expecting A Good Day To Die Hard to be a particularly good film, but considering Die Hard 4.0 has some decent elements to it there was proof these films could still work in the modern age. Alas, within the first few minutes it was clear that any hope should be abandoned. The action scenes feel uninspired, the story wrapped around these severely lacking and worst of all, Bruce Willis seems to be lazily sleepwalking his way in front of the camera amidst a range of wooden acting. Under any other name this may have been a barely passable action film, but with the Die Hard name attached it's reduced John McClane and the franchise from the exemplar of the action genre to poorly clichéd, unexciting filmmaking lacking any essence of what made the first three great. No-one wanted to see the Die Hard films end up like this.
[Read my full review here]

The Hangover Part III

The cardinal sin committed by the second Hangover film was replicating the original's story almost exactly beat for beat and making it less funny in every way. Thus shifting the structure of The Hangover Part III's story and returning the Wolf Pack to Vegas was the one wise decision made here (and maybe throwing Melissa McCarthy into the mix too). Alas it made no difference. The story limps from one uninspired set piece to the next and seems to have suffered a humour bypass in the process. In 100 minutes of screen time only two actually funny jokes were spotted, one of which was during the credits. Both Hangover sequels have felt like they're dragging the carcass of something enjoyable and funny into the town square and beating it in the desperate hope something good will come from it. Clearly nothing will. Let's erase these sequels from our minds and keep our fingers crossed that no more ever appear.
[Read my full review here]

Olympus Has Fallen

And the award for the most wooden performance of the year goes to Gerard Butler. No wait, that could instead read, and the award for the worst script of the year goes to the team behind Olympus Has Fallen. But should any of that matter with a film like this? Well, when you're trying to root for a hero to save the day and he seems totally stilted; when the tone of the film is all wrong, it begins to matter. Everything is imbued with a savagely violent patriotism that sits uneasily throughout. I'm all for violent action films, but this transcends the fantastical violence of most as a po faced 'Merica jams a knife in the head of it's "enemies". The almost identical White House Down provides much needed perspective, being so well cast and written that it's not only a hell of a lot of fun, as this story should be, it's funny too. Olympus Has Fallen missed that memo as it becomes a laughably bad footnote in the annals of the action genre.


Over recent months I had the pleasure of watching Blow Out, Dressed To Kill and The Fury (all superbly remastered on bluray by the ever excellent Arrow Video) which show director Brian De Palma at the height of his creative powers in the late seventies and early eighties. Perhaps this helped fuel my distaste for his latest film, Passion. Aside from it starring two leads who are usually much better than this material, everything about the film feels amateur. From the no budget look and feel of the whole picture, the terribly clichéd story rife with moments that just don't work, to the general mis-casting and poor acting throughout (including those two leads). It's confounding seeing De Palma's name attached. As with A Field In England, this is the only other film this year where I had to desperately resist the temptation to turn it off halfway through. And like that film, this was so bad that sticking it out was really really not worth it. 

The most disappointing films of 2013:


I should've learnt by now never to trust any film with Eli Roth's involvement, unless it's under the guidance of the estimable Mr Tarantino. Everything he does continually disappoints, yet somehow he wasn't the worst aspect of Aftershock, a film that seemed to be generating great buzz online. Or perhaps I should just stop following Roth on Twitter. A raw and more graphic take on the earthquake movie is a good idea. The Chilean setting adds character. I didn't even mind the build-up where we get to know the characters. But as the film quickly devolves into a survival horror where a bunch of frenzied males only seem concerned with chasing and raping the attractive female protagonists, we're left with such a thoroughly disappointing film that any reason to watch quickly dissipates. Why the filmmakers chose to go this route is an absolute mystery, with all potential from the build up rapidly destroyed.

The Counsellor 

Directed by Ridley Scott; written for the screen by critically adored author Cormac McCarthy; starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Unfortunately no, The Counsellor is not on the wrong list, as this was one of the most squandered opportunities I saw all year. The whole film amounts to a massive "so what". The focus of the story lies in the wrong place so it rapidly becomes boring as scenes that are visually appealing pass before the eyes without any real care about their significance or whatever. It's clear why this fantastic cast wanted to be involved, it's just a shame that talent of the likes of Scott and McCarthy couldn't craft something even vaguely interesting for the viewer.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek film that ignores the huge potential within it's grasp - surely that should be a crime? I was a big fan of the 2009 Star Trek, it being the kind of film I never wanted to end and would happily have sat through a couple of hours more. Into Darkness had the opposite effect on me - an hour in I couldn't wait for it to be over. It's a sequel trying too hard to be the film preceding it, including replication of certain sequences. It doesn't seem to want to leave either the Enterprise or Earth and serves up a villain big in folkloric potential, but both terribly realised and acted. But the biggest sin - it's lost any sense of wonder by almost entirely ignoring the incredibly rich universe available to it and focusing on a human villain. Not even the dynamic of the characters we know and love can save it. Into Darkness had so much potential to be a great sequel. That it failed so easily is thoroughly disappointing.
[Read my full review here]

Warm Bodies

I'm generally not a fan of zombie stories sanitised for a friendlier rating as I want to see viscera ripped by the teeth of the rotting. But strangely that wasn't the issue with Warm Bodies. There's a really intriguing story at it's still heart, something that feels like a neat little twist on the hackneyed zombie tale. Thus it's a shame the actual realisation of this is so inert it feels dead on arrival. It's hard to pin down the exact cause for this infection but a myriad of factors are at play, from the casting and acting, the voiceover, the set design, the lifeless pacing and the fact it all feels so glossy. All the fun was drained from this twitching corpse right from the start and no matter how much electricity was applied, nothing could shock it back to life.

The World's End

The appearance of The World's End on this list is less to do with expectations and more to do with over-reactions and wasted potential. I'm of the view that Edgar Wright's best film by a long way is Scott Pilgrim vs the World and that his so-called 'Cornetto trilogy' is comprised of only one decent film. And that isn't The World's End. This is a film deeply mired by characterisation. The lead is one of the most horribly unlikeable I've seen on screen in a long time and he thoroughly overshadows the supporting cast of wholly bland characters who rarely get a chance to stand out. It's a comedy that desperately lacks laughs and the whole story amounts to a tiresome slog despite Wright's usual interesting visual touches and musical savvy. Wright is capable of so much more and this was disappointing to see. That critics and other viewers fawned over this is even more inexplicable.
[Read my full review here]

Note 1: This list is based on films released in the UK from 1st Jan - 31st Dec, be that a cinema release or direct to DVD/VOD release.

Note 2: Reviews are only linked to where I have written one. Unfortunately I don't have time to review everything I watch and although it's fun to write reviews pulling apart films, sometimes it feels unnecessary, or you just want to forget the badness.

Note 3: You can see my top 10 films of 2013 here.

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