There’s no good without bad. No smoke without fire. No top without bottom. That is, no matter how strong a cinematic year may be there will always be an equal number of truly obnoxious misfires. Here are my Bottom 12 of 2014, one per month of release, none (bar one) worth watching. Let the loathing commence.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley
Released: 24th January
Jack Ryan – a character that died in 2002 with Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears – has been needlessly regurgitated here in Kenneth Branagh’s tepid actioner. The banal plot – concerning a terrorist threat on the U.S. economy – limps along through creatively bereft set-pieces and stilted dialogue, helped in no small part by charisma vacuum Chris Pine as the completely ordinary Ryan. It’s not as though the rest of the cast are any better, there’s the poorly considered Knightley as the superficially redundant love-interest, and scenery-chewing Branagh as the antagonistic Russian oligarch. Go for Jack Reacher instead.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt
Released: 21st February
A film that constantly surprises me to see placed alongside the year’s best in countless 2014 retrospectives, this gruellingly lifeless melodrama plods with such frigid pacing through events of very little consequence during a window into the lives of two immeasurably dull characters. It’s not enough that it doesn’t live up to the great atmosphere that is every-so-often teased, it also wastes the talent of a range of usually celebrated actors. The film persistently enforces the subject of the monotony of eternal life, two words that go someway to pigeonholing the film: monotonous, and eternal.
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul
Released: 21st March
The strong cast of this painfully inappropriate Nick Hornby dramedy deserved much, much better than this. Not one of them come across likeable in a story about a group of horrendously annoying misfits (Brosnan’s peadophile, Paul’s washed-up musician, Poots’ boorish rich-kid, and Collette’s mother-to-a-disabled
prop son) who connect during a moment of attempted suicide on a rooftop during a New Year’s Eve party. Oddly played for outright laughs instead of dark humour permeating the serious subject, the film just descends into scene-after-scene of awkwardly forced moments of twee poignancy, culminating in an undeservedly saccharine resolution.
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
Released: 16th April
I must first explain that – despite some fantastical set-pieces from Tobey Maguire’s three-film stint as Spider-Man – I much preferred Marc Webb’s first shot at reinvigorating the Marvel universe, thanks largely to the casting of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone who lended the series a teenage credibility that was plainly missing from Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s duo. That being said, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is somehow even more excruciatingly atrocious than the trashy Spider-Man 3: the oft-regarded nadir of the franchise. It’s tonally jumbled, falling somewhere between cartoony and earnest, clashing with some excessively hideous set-pieces, an unrelentingly eye-rolling script and a painfully misjudged ending. It teases another, but surely it’s time to let this abysmal franchise die.
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk
Released: 12th May
Paul Schrader is not an untalented man. A screenplay writer of such provocative classics as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, it’s unfathomable to have imagined a career trajectory that would hit such a crushing low. This year’s The Counselor (another previously-lauded director/writer combo of Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy, resulting in a tediously lousy mess), The Canyons was written by the usually capable novelist Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho, Rules of Attraction) whom has clearly influenced the script with his usual humdrum conversation, but somewhere this purposefully blasé attitude became an insufferably cynical and ineptly made drama that was acted into the ground by the hopeless Lohan and dick-for-hire Deen.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
Released: 20th June
It’s not surprising to see a McG film in a ‘worst of’ list; his cinematic turds range from the somehow-worse-than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, the asinine Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and machismo circle-jerk This Means War but this scrapes even more of the already splintering barrel. Not only is it clumsily acted and incompetently directed, but McG and Co. squandered the potentially exciting flurries of action with the most inane family side-plotting involving Costner’s silly obsession with a purple bicycle.
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke
Released: 17th July
Gone is the subtlety of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a film that balanced a near-credible universe with intense spectacle, and instead we have a ham-fisted commentary on racism and ecology delivered with such a fervent lack of characterisation by the human cast from an all-too-familiar script. Unfortunately, despite the heart-stoppingly incredible effects work, the apes themselves are relegated to mansplain their way through a tedious family drama whilst the humans bumble about as society’s last hope. One of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Julianna Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson
Released: 26th September
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. David Cronenberg – responsible for bringing us such horrific treats as Videodrome and The Fly – has hit bottom. There have been signposts for this fall in recent times, but it comes as an unexpected jolt to see something so abysmal from a director who was – at one time – maniacally brilliant. Maps to the Stars deals in thickly spread satire: too obvious to be smart, too jaded to be scathing. It’s consistently unpleasant too: suicide, incest, drugs and greed are drilled into the viewer from the beginning, everyone a caricature of the Hollywood elite. Would pair well with the The Canyons as a horribly nihilistic double-feature.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Released: 17th October
When you exit a film thinking Megan Fox deserved better, you know you’ve just sat through a shit-show. The antithesis of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the turtles are this decades’ The Polar Express with regards to hideously vacant computer generated characters. It’s a deluge of green-screen for at least 99% of its existence, with the annoying quartet of mutated freaks bellowing obnoxious, disconnected quips as they wipe-out a cities’ worth of bystanders. Tonally, this makes sense as a cartoony, pulpy action film aimed at children, but it’s such a mish-mash of disastrously written ideas that it’s impossible to let yourself be won over by it’s pitiful attempts at creating a new origin for the turtles. It highlights a current problem of Hollywood blockbusters: it thinks the audience stupid and plays up to that assumption, logic and entertainment be damned.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Released: 14th November
Regardless of what you know about Alan Turing – the logician and cryptanalyst widely considered the pioneer of theoretical computer science – The Imitation Game provides only a cursory glance, nothing more. It’s gutlessly formulaic, shifting from time-period to time-period and never amounting to more than a shallow conveyor belt of Turing’s life: from primary school to his final moments during the appallingly true-life period of chemical castration, by way of code-breaking. It’s agonisingly slow, too; a problem that is frequently emphasised by the melodramatic acting from Cumberbatch and Knightley.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone
Release: 4th April
If you read my Top 12 of 2014, you’ll already be aware that I didn’t see a single December release. I didn’t want you miss out entirely though, and had no choice but to add the best-worst film of the year: Darren Aronofsky’s inexplicable Noah. A biblical epic of biblically stupid proportions, it’s a bombastic adaptation of Aronofsky’s own take on the global flood, flecked with genuinely creative moments of evolution and environmentalism, but swathed in ludicrously re-written creationism delivered with some hokey, laugh-out-loud dialogue. It’s so very hard to take seriously, and harder still to understand how far the joke went before the creators themselves were overcome by it’s stupidity. Frankly, it’s a film that must be seen to be believed.