The Movie Sleuth's Worst 14 of 2014

Now that the Oscar noms are in, let's discuss 14 of the worst of 2014.

14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
2014 seemed to be the year of the ‘80s cartoon reboot. While the original TMNT film trilogy wasn’t a work of art, it held a certain charm and the suits the actors wore really brought the turtles to life. As with every movie made nowadays, the expressive and organic rubber suits were replaced with uncanny valley CGI Ninja Turtles who were over-designed within an inch of their life. Throw in Will Arnett and Megan Fox phoning it in, a ridiculous “RoboShredder 2.0”, a stupid origin story that makes no sense and product placement up the ass and you have a hot mess that makes no apology about desecrating your childhood. This film ended up winning the award for “most Michael Bay-ish film that wasn’t directed by Michael Bay”. Usually, you have to wait for the sequels to get a movie this terrible but this franchise started out with an already extremely low bar.  Unfortunately, it made money so we will probably get two or three more horrible films out of this reboot.

13. The Pyramid - CG
The Pyramid is another horror film that tries to cash in on the good qualities of The Descent. It's a nearly unwatchable disaster that relies heavily on predictable scare tactics, horrendous looking CGI, and a cast that couldn't act themselves out of a plastic box. This claustrophobic style wore itself out a few years ago with numerous other copycat genre films that just couldn't capture a sense of dread, much less put out something with an original idea. With a little work and a script rewrite, things would have been different. But the makers of this movie went full steam ahead with one of the worst horror films of the year and one of the most unoriginal concepts during a time when the genre as a whole is seeing a positive resurgence. This thing should have been buried in the sand alongside its awful plot, shoestring budget, and horrendous cast. 

12. Grace of Monaco - Andrew Kotwicki
How do you make literal use of the euphemism ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ with regard to quality and cleanliness?  With Olivier Dahan’s preposterous hunk of revisionist history as a bloodless wax museum of footage with A-list actors and production values and one of the most cloyingly artificial screenplays ever to enact a bidding war, Grace of Monaco is demonstrative evidence of the aforementioned metaphor as a tangible reality.  What should have been a sumptuous period drama about actress Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) and her relationship with Rainer III, Prince of Monaco (Tim Roth, in one of his absolute worst performances) instead is an embarrassing stillborn with cringe inducing dreadful acting ranging from dead stares to unabashed scenery chewing.  No one, not even Parker Posey, Frank Langella, and the distinguished Derek Jacobi can deliver a single line of dialogue without inducing a theater full of eye rolling and a sinking feeling the film died well before it even unspooled.  When Dahan isn’t ego-stroking with his lofty notions of historical fiction, he has his cinematographer press the camera so close against Kidman’s face you fear the lens will whack her in the head.  Is it, as they say, really the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival?  Furthermore, is former Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein really in the right with recutting Dahan’s spankoff into something that might be admissible for theatrical exhibition?  Yes it really is as awful as it’s been made out to be.  No it shouldn’t be made more palatable for public consumption.  Rather, it should be withdrawn and left on the shelf before it deep sixes Nicole Kidman’s career once and for all. 

11. Transformers 4 - Michelle Kisner
Just when I thought Michael Bay couldn’t crap all over the Transformers franchise anymore, here comes Transformers 4: Age of Extinction--the longest, dumbest and loudest film that Bay has ever made. Everything that fans loved about Transformers is cast aside and replaced with BroDude trash talkin’ robots who care nothing about protecting the human race or fighting evil. Optimus Prime has been turned into a bloodthirsty savage, rampaging his way through every battle with no rhyme or reason. Thank God we have Marky Mark to save the day, even though he has no skills whatsoever—other than chastising his young teenage daughter for dating a creepy older dude. By the way, they spend more time explaining the loophole that allows this statutory rape to occur than explaining where the Dinobots came from. Remember them from the trailer? Hopefully you enjoy all fifteen minutes of the screen time they get in this film.  Bay has hit a new low with this flick.

10. Godzilla - J.G. Barnes
I can't classify Godzilla as a bad film, but what I can certainly classify it as is one of the most disappointing films I've ever seen in my life. It had everything going for it: an indie director with a taste for genuine, quality film making, a star-studded cast, one of the best trailers I've ever seen, a faithful Godzilla redesign, and a horrifyingly dark tone. All of the pieces were there for an honest reboot of the original Gorjira and rekindling the big green monster's horror roots. It was a huge misfire. Their plan was to give you the impression that anyone and anything is expendable, and that Godzilla was a looming, gargantuan, and unpredictable storm that could erupt at any moment and recede like an indifferent apocalypse.  Except none of that happened.  Instead of being slow burning and ominous, Godzilla was frustratingly disjointed, dropping the best part of the film within the first thirty minutes, and proceeding to sharply tear out any potentially exciting segments before they get good, or even resorting to downright insulting cheapness.  This is not the art of the tease, this is bad pacing, bad writing, and unabashed cheating. It's not absolutely intolerable, even though the horrendously melodramatic direction of Ken Watanabe and his assistant's exposition being laughably overt, or Aaron Taylor Johnson's leading role being as easy to root for as a pet rock. The last 10 or more minutes of the film is shockingly great, but serves to make the remainder of this abomination significantly more anger-inducing. Why did this happen?!

9. Rosewater - Andrew Kotwicki
The latest in an ongoing trend of celebrity slacktivism that would make Angelina Jolie and Jason Russell blush is The Daily Show frontman Jon Stewart’s paltry directorial debut Rosewater.  The true story of the incarceration of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (a woefully miscast Gael Garcia Bernal) in Iran’s Evin Prison and his tormented ordeal at the hands of an interrogator with the nickname Rosewater (Pusher’s Kim Bodnia) could have made for a genuinely compelling civil rights drama.  In Stewart’s hands, all of the fine acting from Bernal and Bodnia as well as the gravity of the premise tragically go to waste in what is ultimately a stagnant made-for-television Lifetime movie.  When we’re not inundated with underwhelming melodrama, Stewart reminds viewers Rosewater is informative, politically charged viewing by intercutting news footage and YouTube videos to pad out the proceedings, only underlining the facile hollowness of the whole thing.  The transparency of the project speaks volumes to Stewart’s real motives which are to promote himself as a well-read individual on world issues.  Should we be surprised Rosewater is from the guy who attacked CNN Crossfire commentators with his educated and witty riposte “Stop hurting America”?  Yeah Jon, stop hurting America’s cinemagoers with self-important crap like Rosewater.

8 .Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Andrew Kotwicki
It worked beautifully the first time around and was revolutionary.  In the time honored tradition of greedy studio executives salivating over milking a great idea for all its worth, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s 9 years overdue sequel to Sin City have produced a lazily uninspired cash cow whose only differentiating factor is its subtitle A Dame to Kill For.  Calling into question the validity of the first film, A Dame to Kill For reprises every watermark of the first film, tosses every unhelpful cameo it can muster our way while trying to one-up scenes from the first film with 3D rendering and just enough scopophilia to titillate and distract prepubescent teenage boys from truly recognizing the poverty of imagination on display.  While some are quick to dub A Dame to Kill For as stylistically linked to its predecessor, the same can be said of Peter Jackson’s recent revisit of the groundwork laid out in his take on Tolkein’s fantasy epic.  Just because The Hobbit takes place in the same universe as The Lord of the Rings doesn’t mean the finished films are spoken of the same breath.  There’s a half-hearted desperation running through A Dame to Kill For, hoping the few who ultimately went to see it (not many did) will embrace it with the same fervor they did previously.  Sadly, all A Dame to Kill For really managed to do was rob the original Sin City of its virginity.

7. Devil’s Due - Blake O. Kleiner
Every found footage film needs to be able to answer a simple question. The question is: Why are they filming this right now? If the answer is always “because it’s a movie,” I’m sorry, but your movie sucks. In Devil’s Due, the found footage genre hit the ground stumbling in 2014, giving us a diluted and intellectually bankrupt version of Rosemary’s Baby without any of the intrigue, artisanship, or basic human interest of that masterpiece. In the reality created by these inept screenwriters, when a husband wakes up in the middle of the night to discover his pregnant wife—already exhibiting numerous causes for concern at this point—is missing, he doesn’t call 911 or start turning on lights. He reaches for the f**king camera and goes trolling through the house using night vision. If you’ve even made it this far in this litmus test of human boredom, you’ve got major problems, and so does this movie.

6. At The Devil's Door - CG
Between a weak screenplay, cheese covered acting, and a horrendous delivery of plot,  At The Devil's Door barely even qualifies as a movie. What could have been a cool premise is ruined by a hack director that has no idea how to draw a realistic or believable performance from numerous female leads that just stand around looking pretty. They may be nice to look at, but this trifecta of beauty over substance makes At The Devil's Door a nearly unwatchable straight to video nightmare that doesn't even belong in a bargain bin at the local going out of business sale. For this horror fanatic, At The Devils's Door was a cheap looking and awful attempt that did nothing original or new. Horror fans deserve much better than this.

 5.Willow Creek - Andrew Kotwicki
When you have Bobcat Goldthwait in the director’s chair, we expect genre subversion.  As demonstrated in both World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America, he is a master of dark comedy.  So when the time came for him to assail the found footage horror genre, with Bigfoot at the epicenter, we should have expected him to do something fresh and maybe even meta with the cheapie quickie trend dominating the multiplexes as of late.  And as the film unfolded, with endless long takes (some lasting close to 20 minutes), it proved to be just another lazy, masturbatory retread of The Blair Witch Project.  Much like Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Willow Creek did absolutely nothing to separate itself from the pack.  Here’s hoping Mr. Goldthwait can put this behind him and get back on track, sooner than I can dispense with this routine, overlong and underwhelming genre exercise.  You’re better off skipping it!

4. Annabelle - Shayne McGuire
James Wan’s The Conjuring not only pleased casual moviegoers but also surprised horror fans everwhere.  One of the film’s most mysterious and eerie elements was haunted doll that goes by the name of Annabelle.  Director John R. Leonetti decided to present us with little Ms. Annabelle’s backstory and failed in almost every aspect.  What sounded like a very promising idea was destroyed with dreadful writing, mediocre acting and horror movie cliché after cliché.  The characters are useless, their backstories ridiculous with subplots leading nowhere.  The cherry on top is the litany of predictable jump scares that end up being laughable and forced.  You know there’s a problem when you’re more amused than frightened.  In short, Annabelle is an absolute train wreck that should be avoided at all costs!  My friendly advice is to simply hold out for the eventual release of an official Conjuring sequel.

3.Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb - JG Barnes
While I actually loved my first two nights at the museum, Secret of the Tomb, tarnishes the lighthearted, genuinely funny, and educational series with an embarrassing entry for the legendary Robin Williams to go out on. I watched not one, but two sets of parents and children walked out of the theater thanks to its tasteless potty humor, stilted dialog, and performances with no energy or care. Secret of the Tomb has successfully left a horrible stain on a harmless family series and isn't appropriate for anyone of any age or mental capability. Take this film out back and put it out of its misery. 

2. The Identical - Andrew Kotwicki
Second to Saving Christmas in terms of sheer unbridled fundamentalist Christian cinematic ineptitude and insanity, this hunk of historical fiction poses a unique question: what if Elvis’ twin brother didn’t die a stillborn and lived on?  The answer to that question is that he grows from being a preacher’s son to a Christian Rock star.  Besides the incredulous slander of Elvis’ legacy, there’s no sense of time in this thing.  It’s supposed to be a period piece, but has costumes and set pieces that are clearly out of a different timeframe.  Characters inexplicably age at different times, and the idea of a 40 something year old Blake Rayne playing a teenager is just laughable.  What really gets me about this one is how much money was sunk into it.  Costing around $16 million, it only took in $2.8 million.  Starving children and cinemagoers did not benefit from this unwatchable piece of trash being unleashed into the world.

1. Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas - Andrew Kotwicki
Imagine having 9/11 conspiracy theories applied to Christmas, screamed at you for 90 minutes and then the perpetrator dances.  Undoubtedly the craziest and most inept film of 2014 that somehow managed to garner a theatrical release, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is the kind of homegrown holiday nightmare that makes the villain in Silent Night, Deadly Night look benign by comparison.  Shot primarily (also very poorly) in former Growing Pains turned evangelical actor Kirk Cameron’s home before shifting much of its action to the front seat  of his car, Saving Christmas is the purest gaze into paranoid schizophrenia since Wesley Willis sung about getting the Hell beat out of him by Batman.  Scenes of Saint Nicholas beating a nonbeliever into oblivion, Christmas trees dissolving into crosses, and talk of ‘waging war’ on Christmas are just the tip of the iceberg of madness Saving Christmas dives headlong into.  It wouldn’t be anywhere near the beguiling hunk of awfulness that it is without the voiceover narration of its eccentric, unhinged leading man, Kirk Cameron.  Listening to him drone on endlessly about all the confounding reasons he believes everything related to Christmas all comes back to Jesus will gradually succeed in converting you…to an insane asylum.  And we thought Tommy Wiseau was a strange bird.