December 20, 2013

SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Worst Movies of 2013 and More


It would be easy enough to fill a Worst 10 list with low-budget “found footage” horror movies, and sadly not that much more difficult to fill one with earnest, badly-executed indies, but where’s the fun in that?  No, if we’re going to throw stones, let’s throw them through some expensive windows.


JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (Warners):  Bryan Singer’s colossal, incoherent mess of a fractured fairy tale brought him running back to the X-Men franchise as fast as his agents could get him there.

THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate):  Justin Zackham’s rom-com atrocity featured an all-star cast (Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Robin Williams), and it was enough to make you swear off all of them, and the genre in general, for the rest of your life.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (20th):  How to kill off a franchise, Part I.  A mindless exercise in cash-grabbing that ended up (no kidding) at Chernobyl, exactly the right place for a revolting mutation.  Bruce Willis should have been ashamed of himself, if such a thing were possible.  By the time it was over, you could barely remember why you loved the first one.

GROWN UPS 2 (Sony):  It just wouldn’t be a Worst 10 list without Adam Sandler.  A horrible comedy, but in a way, a great mystery:  how was the reported $90M budget spent, when the whole thing looked like it was shot in a basement?  Did Sandler use the money to buy a South Seas island?

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount):  With a title like that, it was either going to be tremendous fun or unwatchable, and it wasn’t tremendous fun.

AFTER EARTH (Sony):  Will Smith is like the dad who forces you to scroll through every single photo of his son on his smartphone, except in this case his smartphone was a $150M-budgeted sci-fi adventure and Jaden Smith was supposed to be able to act.

ENDER’S GAME (Summit/Lionsgate):  A bunch of teens play a version of laser-tag to learn how to conduct intergalactic wars, and then they play an elaborate video game and when it’s over, Harrison Ford says “Congratulations, that was the real war and you won!”  The source novel is reputedly a classic, for reasons the movie never remotely made clear.

THE HANGOVER PART III (Warners):  How to kill off a franchise, Part II.  If the idea was to finish the trilogy by giving audiences the actual blinding headaches and bad taste in their mouths that the title had always promised–it worked.

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th):  Impressive photo-realistic visuals ruined beyond repair by the worst, most insipid dialogue to be heard this side of a syndicated educational TV cartoon special circa 1974.  Instead of a premium for 3D, theatres showing it should charge extra to turn off the sound.

THE LONE RANGER (Disney):  On behalf of Disney shareholders everywhere, who lost close to $200M on 2 1/2 hours of Johnny Depp praying against all reason that more weird make-up and another funny voice would deliver a global blockbuster to rival Pirates of the Caribbean.  Despite the denials of all concerned, this was the movie that ended producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s multi-billion dollar, 20-year relationship with the studio.



PACIFIC RIM (Warners):  Many fans just couldn’t bring themselves to admit that the great Guillermo del Toro had made as tedious and mindless a sci-fi epic as any Hollywood hack.

THE GREAT GATSBY (Warners):  OK, fair enough–what did anyone expect from the smash-up of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Baz Luhrmann?  But if it couldn’t be good, at least it could have been fascinatingly crazy, and this wasn’t even that.

OLDBOY (FilmDistrict):  The saddest movie of Spike Lee’s career, a by-the-numbers remake of original director Chan-Wook Park’s vision, and not even successful at that.

CARRIE (Screen Gems/Sony/MGM):  On paper, the idea of a reimagined Carrie, with a cast headed by Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, sounded promising, but the result was just a dull imitation of Brian DePalma’s classic.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Pixar/Disney):  This is what Pixar has come to, a flat college comedy prequel with gorgeous animation.  There was something almost classically apt when the division was thoroughly outclassed by its own sibling this year, Walt Disney Animation’s Frozen.



THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate):  Franchises aren’t going anywhere, but some are better than others, and this relatively smart and ambitious, extremely well acted, visually cohesive chapter in the saga of Katniss Everdeen was the year’s strongest.



WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Sony):  No argument:  action movies don’t come much dumber.  But this Die Hard in the Oval Office summer bang-bang spectacle was lots of fun anyway.



STORIES WE TELL  (Roadside):  Explaining what was so odd about Sarah Polley’s investigation into her own family would be a massive spoiler, but it tested the limits of what “documentary” really means.

ROOM 237 (IFC Films):  A bunch of crazy Stanley Kubrick fans recounted their pet theories about The Shining, including that it’s a parable of the Holocaust, and/or that it was Kubrick’s personal apologia for having faked the Apollo 11 moon landing on a sound stage for the US government.  Cleverly assembled by director Rodney Ascher (even the logo credits were fun) and an oddly fascinating statement about the way we see movies in our heads.



UPSTREAM COLOR (erbp):  I’d be lying if I said I truly understood what was going on in Shane Carruth’s film, but it was an artwork unto itself and, more often than not, strangely gripping.



TO THE WONDER (Magnolia):  After toying with it for much of his career, Terence Malick finally crossed the line into self-parody.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Weinstein/Radius):  From the director and star of Drive, a movie that made you wonder how good Drive could really have been.

SPRING BREAKERS (A24):  Harmony Korine dipping a toe in the (very) relative mainstream.  At its best, it was a vapid music video, not nearly as transgressive as it pretended to be, and mostly it was (very) soft-core self-indulgent nonsense.

THE COUNSELOR (Fox):  OK, this one is a cheat, because it really wasn’t “impenetrable” at all.  What was, though, was the existence of a cult of high-minded critics who swore that there was more here than a horribly written (by Cormac McCarthy), dully acted and directed (by Ridley Scott) dumb crime melodrama, something that Made A Statement About America and was relevant to an analysis of human nature.  If nothing else, that won it the year’s Emperor’s New Clothes award.

UNDER THE SKIN (A24):  You haven’t seen this one yet–it screened at Toronto, and will open in 2014.  Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who (in scenes of unscripted improv) coaxes Scottish non-actors back to her room, where she watches them get engulfed by goop.  Suffice it to say that when a movie makes you stop caring that Scarlett Johansson is naked (even Mr. Skin would take a nap), its level of pretentiousness is impressive.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."