Top 5 Worst of 2012

Just a top five for the Worst list this year. But trust me... these movies suck enough for ten.

5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

When I heard that Neveldine and Taylor, the gonzo filmmakers behind the insanely unhinged Crank movies, were tackling a redo of Ghost Rider, I was pleasantly optimistic. The B-list Marvel character hit the screen once before in Mark Steven Johnson's abysmal 2007 pic and while I've never been a huge fan of the flaming skull and his Hell Cycle, I figured Neveldine and Taylor could bring some much-needed nuttiness and nastiness to a pseudo sequel. So imagine my surprise when I saw Spirit of Vengeance and found it to be barely better than Johnson's movie, if at all. Nicolas Cage acts a little sillier, but to no avail. A flat, unambitious, and completely piecemeal script provides a meandering plot about a kid some hellishly bad guys want to get their hands on and a supernatural villain who shows up late for a dry showdown is as dully designed as he is performed. The titular character's bike sports an appropriately charred look, but other than that, Neveldine and Taylor just toss another stinker on the fire of Marvel movie failures by doing the last thing I expected of them: they play it safe.

 

4. Snow White and the Huntsman

Congratulations, Kristen Stewart. You've taken the first step in ensuring that your future in awful franchises remains intact. And on the eve of your final Twilight movie! Just in time! To be fair, while this second Snow White movie of the year seems to extend Stewart's grasp on a guaranteed sequel-ready role and she is indeed awful every moment she's on screen, this particular take on the fairy tale heroine has far more problems than a lip-chewing actress whose once visible shreds of talent have now been seemingly shed. First-time feature filmmaker Rupert Sanders has cobbled together familiar ingredients for a bleakly boring action pic with a taste so bland that I nearly craved the flavour of the infamous poisoned apple. Charlize Theron tries to embrace a campy shtick as the evil queen, but her performance is just bad without the capital B. Chris Hemsworth, so charming and likable in his other roles this year, gets swallowed up by the drabness, which is probably for the best given his ridiculous accent. And the less said about the interchangeable dwarves the better. Sanders has made a rough, rudimentary debut. Fairy tales have rarely looked so grey and tasted so dry. Yeah, I'll take that apple now.

 

3. Dark Shadows

By now, the sight of Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton movie should be warning enough. The pair's collaborations have fallen a long way from the inspired peak where it all began with the 1990 gem Edward Scissorhands. Now I feel like these guys have decided that sabotaging each other's careers is just about the best damn way to spend their time together. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was rough and Alice in Wonderland was an acid trip nightmare of recycled proportions. But their latest team-up, a supposedly comedic update of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, is a tonal disaster. It's a comedy that's not funny and a fright flick that's not scary. But what's most confusing is that it never really appears to commit to either side. It lamely languishes in the middle, insisting that Johnny Depp's Barnabas is a vampire who, while mostly nice, still needs to suck some human blood every now and then, but Burton doesn't seem particularly interested in exploring whether that's a reason to laugh or cower. Dark Shadows has some of the most lifelessly conceived and executed scenes of Burton's entire career. Speaking (okay, writing) of lifeless, I'm pretty sure partnering up with Burton has drained Helena Bonham Carter of her creative juices. She phones this one in from such a distance that I'm amazed she even appears on camera. And sp-- er, writing about phones...Hey Tim Burton, your credibility called. It hates you.

 

2. Total Recall

Most remakes are creatively bankrupt cash grabs, so when one fails nowadays, there's little reason to be surprised. But even with such armoured expectations, Len Wiseman's dreary, cheap, and altogether moronic remake of genre master Paul Verhoeven's 1990 Schwarzenegger-starring action pic (itself an extended adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale") manages to embarrass itself by ripping off whole swaths of the progenitor's script (sometimes line for line) and yet ditching all of the stuff that made the Verhoeven movie so fun. Gone is the playful sense of humour and, in a baffling bit of bad decision-making, the entire concept of the trip to Mars (not that Mars was a very popular movie destination this year). And yet we still have essentially the same characters, the same plot twists, and the same conflicts. This remake isn't just unoriginal; it genuinely seems confused about what made the previous movie work so well. I've never seen a remake wallow so desperately in the shadow of its predecessor while utterly failing to capture any of the joy and imagination that defined the first picture. Wiseman's inability to shoot kinetic action sequences with coherent camera work and Patrick Tatopoulos's lazy attempt to lamely thieve production design cues from Blade Runner make this one of the least visually appealing pictures I saw all year. Most recent remakes are bad. This one makes them look good.

 

1. This Means War

This sickeningly asinine piece of junk is the kind of jaw-droppingly, mind-numbingly, nosebleed-causingly awful ode to idiocy that could convince a bag of rocks to put on a Mensa badge. And if all those adverbs (invented or not) don't convince you, then just try to imagine the most embarrassingly convenient, unfunny, and cliché-ridden situations that could arise from the concept (two spy buddies unwittingly fall for the same woman and then later fight over her) and then put it all in a blender of cinematic putrescence. Yes, director McG and screenwriters Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg can't think of any better or more interesting way to communicate Chris Pine's character's transformation into a sensitive dude than to show him watching Titanic by himself. Seriously. And it's not even played as an attempted joke. Watching Pine and his also talented co-stars Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon cavort around with this toilet paper roll of a script is just sad. A villain is included because these guys apparently do get around to doing spy work once in a while, but he's barely present until the movie requires a finale with some fireworks. And the resolution of the love triangle conflict is so ridiculously convenient, so obviously calculated, so carelessly contrived that it feels like we're watching McG completely give up on filmmaking before our very eyes. Hopefully what this really means is that McG is going to rethink his career choices. Or at the very least, make his next movie about a bag of rocks.