Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Least Favorite Films of 2014

I just finished reading Michael Adams' book, "Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Quest to Find the Worst Film Ever Made" (2010) which provided that whenever you think you may have found a really bad film, there's a more horrible film waiting just around the corner. So I'm sure you may have been subjected to worse this year, but these provided me with the least pleasure this year.
There are "so bad it's good film" such as "Plan Nine from Outer Space" whose very incompetence provide some viewing pleasure. I did not find these films to be like that.

So here is my bottom five for the year:

5) Noah - I went into this film with some hope. The director and writer, Darren Aronofsky has made some interesting, even great films ("Pi", "The Wrestler", "Black Swan", "Requiem for a Dream".) And I thought it would be interesting to see how he would handle the very real challenge of turning the Biblical story of Noah into a feature. And with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins in the cast, how bad could it be? The answer is very.
With magic, rock monsters and a stowaway on the ark the film presses toward all kinds of crazy, but not good crazy. The idea of making the story about conservation of the earth wouldn't be a bad idea if it didn't go over into the extreme environmental nuttiness of the earth being better off without people. Noah as a mad baby killer just doesn't work for me.

4) Need for Speed - To me it seems like it should be possible to make a decent, at least a dumb fun, film out of a video game. To my knowledge the dream of an adequate and not horrible video game movie has not been achieved. It seemed like a possibility with this film. "The Blues Brothers", after all, is basically car crashes and blues music and it's awesome. And this film featured Aaron Paul fresh from "Breaking Bad" glory. Alas, car crashes in this film are sad. It really lost me when it treated crashing into a homeless man's shopping cart, destroying all of his worldly goods, as the funniest thing ever. Maybe in the sequel (may it never be) they can kill a puppy for giggles.

3) Sabotage - Arnold Schwarzenegger has made plenty of "so bad they're good" films. Just last year he made "The Last Stand" and even better/worse "Escape Plan" with Sly Stallone that were objectively awful and I enjoyed them both very much. This story of a special-forces drug enforcement team that decides to score a fortune off a cartel was tastelessly gory, mean spirited and incoherent. A quite strange thing is the writer and director of this film, David Ayer also make one of my favorite films of the year.

2) God's Not Dead - This has been the Year of the Christian Film. Since the golden days of the studios, major filmmakers have been quite hesitant about making explicitly religious films. It looked like things might change a decade ago when Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" seemed to come out of nowhere make a fortune. But the studios seemed to make the unusual choice of placing their distant of evangelicals over their usually omnipotent greed. This year though, three film with clearly Christian content took in big bucks; "Son of God", a repackaging of TV's "The Bible" took in $60 million, the studio backed, recognizably casted "Heaven is for Real" took in $90 million and GND took in $60 million. (You could stretch things and include "Noah" in the faith marketed trend and it took in $100 million.) Sadly, all of these films were bad and "God's Not Dead" is the worst.
Kevin Sorbo (who seemed more intellectually astute when he played Hercules on TV) is a college philosophy professor who torments his students into written denials of faith in God. But one bold Christian student makes a stand for the faith and prevails. When I first heard about this film I had a spark of hope, because the persecution of faith, typified by the University of California's treatment of InterVarsity is vital topical issue worth pursuing. This wasn't the film to do it
Besides the lame treatment of the main subject, we have a presentation of women in the film that verges on misogyny; all the women are dim or harridans. And the film also features a Laurel and Hardy team of clergymen of vague denominational affiliation who spend most of the film trying to get to Disneyworld, but at the end of the film accomplish a death bed conversion of a traffic accident victim and then practically give each other a high five for success. Cameos from the News Boys and Duck Dynasty cast members can't save it.

1) Repentance - This year I've begun writing posts at about churches in films. The title of this film and a bit of reading about this film starring the Oscar winning Forest Whitaker and Anthony Mackie (Captain America's Falcon) led me to think this might be a worthy subject. A successful "spiritual advisor" takes on a trouble client to lead him to enlightenment. Little does he know that the client blames the advisor for his mother's death in a traffic accident and is seeking revenge. The film blends Christianity with New Age quackery and the occult in thoroughly incomprehensible hodgepodges. There are quite unpleasant sequences of abduction and torture. And a "happy ending" that's as unpleasant as it is nonsensical.
You probably hadn't heard of this film before I mentioned it here. I apologize for bringing it to your attention.

No comments: