Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cap'n Howdy Presents: The Five Worst Movies I Saw in 2012

 For a change, I saw more good movies than terrible movies in 2012. I know, this must come as a shock to you, but it's true. Looking back, there are several movies I saw that were "okay" to "meh," but very few that outright stank. Well, that were made in 2012 anyway: Horror Fest and Summer Fest entries don't count this year, with one exception.

 The very bottom and the very top lists for 2012 aren't going to be too long, but while I try to put together some kind of notion of how I want to organize the "Best Of"'s, there's not much question in my mind how the bottom of the barrel stacks up. (The middle is going to take me a little while...)

 In the interest of fairness, I didn't see many of what people tell me are the very worst of this year, including: That's My Boy, Battleship, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Total Recall, The Watch, Guilt Trip, For A Good Time Call, Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2, Parental Guidance, or The Apparition. Unfortunately, I can't be of any help to you in that respect, but I can promise you that this list serves as one last So You Won't Have To for last year.

 So without further ado, let's count down from 5 to 1 of the Worst Movies of 2012.

 5.Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies - So of the three films about Abraham Lincoln released this year, I saw two of them, and instead of picking the one with the vampires from the director of Wanted, the Cap'n wisely(?) chose the knock-off instead. From what I hear, The Asylum's cash-in / rip-off is arguably the better of the two, and if that's the case then I'm glad I didn't watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This movie was terrible, and only became watchable as the anachronisms began to pile up, along with the shoehorning in of a young Theodore Roosevelt, who helps Lincoln, his secret prostitute mistress, Stonewall Jackson, and John Wilkes Booth (a member of the Secret Service... yeah, I know) to protect Fort Pulaski from zombies.

 And trust me, while that last sentence may have you intrigued, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies in no way deserves your attention.

 4. (tie) Underworld: Awakening and Resident Evil: Retribution - Here we have the case of two sequels, well into their franchise lives (four and five, respectively) that serve no purpose other than to set up the next sequel. While it's true that I've given up on the Resident Evil series, I held out just a sliver of hope that the return of Kate Beckinsale to the Underworld universe might up the trashy factor, but it was not to be. Underworld 4 was a lot of moping, Scott Speedman body-doubling, more pointless philosophical debate about what it means to be a vampire when Lycans control the world, and just a smidgen of Stephen Rea chewing scenery. If there's a fifth film (and Awakening is going to look awfully silly if there isn't), I can't say I'm all that enthused that we'll ever get back to the campy tone of the first flick.

 As for Retribution, well, there isn't much I would add to the review linked above. It's not really a movie, but a series of extended (read: boring) fight sequences peppered with pointless dialogue designed to reset the story (again) so that we can get to a "more interesting" movie next time. Since it looks like the next film is going to have even less of a plot, it's hard to imagine how hard Paul W.S. Anderson is going to have to work to screw it up. Then again, he lives to disappoint, so he'll find a way...

 3. (tie) Piranha 3DD and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance -  Speaking of disappointing, what the hell happened with these two totally unnecessary sequels? They were primed to be very necessary, very schlocky, audiovisual overload based solely on the combination of source material and director. On the one hand, you have John Gulager, director of the hyper-ridiculous gorefest Feast, directing the sequel to Alexadre Aja's T&A meets Blood & Guts remake of Piranha. And on the other hand, you have Nicolas Cage returning as Ghost Rider and behind the camera are the directors of Crank and Crank 2: High Voltage, two of the most ridiculous movies in Jason Statham's already ridiculous action movie career. Oh, and both movies were shot in 3-D! They couldn't lose! It was impossible!

 Somehow, both films end up being complete and total wastes of time. Not only are Piranha 3DD and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance not the anarchic clusterfucks you would hope for, but they're something even worse: Boring.

  Yes, boring: neither film is remotely fun to watch, in a trashy way or in a "what the hell was that?" way, which is a cardinal sin when making sequels to two absurd movies. Gulager not only doesn't deliver on the DD's his title promises (unless you count the first and last five minutes of the film), but all of the energy of Feast is replaced by the worst tendencies on display in Feast II and III. Instead of kinetic camerawork and editing, he instead falls back on a love of flatulence and cameos for the sake of having cameos, so that while he can't make a baby piranha swimming up a girl's va-jay-jay and biting her boyfriend's pecker interesting, he sure can give us three different montages devoted to David Hasselhoff running in slow motion.

 Far be it from me to point this out, but when the Spongebob Squarepants Movie finds a better way to use a superfluous cameo by David Hasselhoff, then you're doing something wrong.

 Meanwhile, Neveldine and Taylor not only don't add to the gonzo stupidity that was the first Ghost Rider, but they dial back the insanity and Mega-Acting / Neo-Shamanism by Cage and give us the tamest possible version of Spirits of Vengeance. We get less Ghost Rider, more mumble-cage, a supernatural knock-off of Terminator 2, and to top it off they find a way to waste Anthony Stewart Head, Ciarán Hinds, and Idris Elba. Thanks, assholes. Now we'll never get a properly stupid Ghost Rider movie.

 2. Taken 2 - Can we just agree not to let Olivier Megaton make movies anymore? While I didn't see Columbiana and maybe it's actually good, Megaton has now ruined not one, but two franchises with shitty sequels. First he stripped the absurdity from the Transporter films, giving the world the first boring Jason Statham action film, and then in 2012 he took Taken and drained everything good out of that with his awful sequel.

 Taken was a pretty simple concept: sex slave traders take Liam Neeson's daughter. Liam Neeson kills everyone standing between him and his daughter, in increasingly brutal ways, because that's what he does. He has a very particular set of skills, skills that make him a nightmare for people like you. Presuming that you are Eastern European sex slave traders, of course. It's a stripped down action film that delivered simple, no frills beat downs and torture.

 So logically you'd follow that up by having the families of everyone Liam Neeson murdered (yes, he has a name, and it's Brian Whogivesashit) want revenge on him and his family. In his infinite wisdom - well, really to nail Famke Janssen now that Xander Berkley wasn't asked to come back - he invites his wife and daughter to join him in Istanbul, where Neeson and Janssen are promptly kidnapped. So okay, that means Maggie Grace is going to have to do the inverted version of Taken, right? She'll save her father and mother than maybe kill Rade Serbedzija, because who else would be playing the father of the guy Neeson electrocuted to death?

 Nope. Liam Neeson gets out, crashes into the American Embassy and somehow doesn't end up being shot or prosecuted for property damage (because he calls Leland Orser, returning along with John Gries and D.B. Sweeney who is reprising someone else's role for a quick cameo paycheck). We then don't see Maggie Grace (sorry, Kim Whogivesashit) until after Neeson goes back to rescue Lenore Whogivesashit and kill all of the bad guys. Because that's what he does. Also she passes her driving test, which is somehow integral to the plot. (Not kidding)

 Only this time you can't tell that's what he does because Olivier Megaton doesn't know how to shoot a comprehensible action sequence to save his life. I literally ended up with headaches during the three (the ONLY three) fight scenes in Taken 2. It's virtually impossible to tell what's going on, who is hitting who, or where anyone is in relation to the person they're in combat with because Megaton and his editor throw rapid cuts of extreme close-ups on the screen to guarantee that nobody has the slightest idea what they're seeing. So not only is Taken 2 a LOT of setup for very little payoff, but when the time comes for Liam Neeson to use his particular set of skills, you don't even know what the hell is going on, and it hurts your brain.

 I HATED Taken 2, and there's no possible way that an "Unrated" version could be an improvement, because unless they hired a competent director and editor to reshoot the entire movie, it's a total waste of time.

 But Taken 2 isn't the worst movie I saw this year. It's not even the worst Luc Besson produced movie I saw this year, because that distinction goes to:

1. Lockout - Here's the deal: I'm willing to be veeeerrrrrry forgiving when it comes to cheesy science fiction. There are a lot of things I'll put up with if a movie can easily be summed up as "Escape from New York in Space," so even if Lockout was rocking a 17% Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes the night we went to see it, I was prepared for that. I knew we wouldn't be watching high art, but instead a goofy, illogical, dumbed-down crowd-pleaser that catered to the cheap seats. As long as I got Guy Pearce as a bad-ass for ninety minutes, I figured we'd be okay. Besides, after that we'd be seeing The Cabin in the Woods. Surely it couldn't be that bad.

 And sure enough, it starts out promising. In fact, the opening of the film is the European Trailer, which is Guy Pearce making wisecracks and being punched while Peter Stormare interrogates him. And then we flashback to why he's being interrogated, and there's a clever joke involving jumping out of one window and into another gone wrong.

 And then there's the high speed unicycle chase that looks like a Playstation (One) cut-scene.

 Okay, that's really bad, but let's keep going, right? It'll get schlocky soon.

 And then Lockout fell apart. As I said, I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to movies like this, so I'll let things like repeatedly putting up a title card to let us know what we're looking at even if we've seen it five times. It's like watching a TV movie without the commercial breaks, I guess. It supports the theory that Lockout is "a series of movie-like images taped together." But then it gives up on the laws of physics while still trying to use said laws of physics as critical plot points. Then your brain begins to melt a little bit, then you start laughing. Not at what's going on in Lockout, because that ceased to make sense a long time ago, but because it's the only way to express what the movie is doing to your brain.

 Do yourself a favor and click on the link embedded in the title. It's called "Four Reasons You Might Be Drunk Enough to Watch Lockout," and while I don't recommend watching Lockout, especially not while drunk - as you are likely to do harm to your television for subjecting you to Lockout - it may give you some idea why, try as I may, I couldn't find a worse movie to watch in 2012.

 (Dis)Honorable Mention: Men in Black III, American Reunion, The Campaign - All of which were okay, I guess, but not movies I'm probably going to watch again.

 Extra (Dis)Honorable Mention to The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot so pointless and so tedious that I couldn't even talk myself into finishing it.

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