With the fluctuating tastes of the international public, and the undeniable lure of the quick cash buck, making a Worst of List for any year is a trial. After all, you have to wade through a sea of sloppy indie drivel, many a homemade horror show (both literally and figuratively), and enough supposed comedies/romances/combination of the two to choke a champion mare. The democratization and micromanaging of the medium has lead to offerings specifically geared toward a more than specific segment of the cinematic populace. Thus, Tyler Perry keeps cranking out the crudely baked morality tales while fright and terror are delivered in tepid, ready for the teen market mediocrity.
You will see a lot of movie macabre on this year’s bottom of the barrel. You will also see a ridiculous F/X epic, a couple of failed laughers, and one weird amalgamation of thriller and onscreen boot camp. The sad thing is—we could have added so many more. Rock of Ages proved that not every actor in Hollywood looks comfortable in ‘80s regalia, screeching out sloppy versions of Poison, while ATM argued that three fresh faced newcomers can’t save a stupid suspense premise. Killing Them Softly illustrated (and yakked… and yakked… and yakked) that hitmen are merely misunderstood businessmen, a talking cure away from legality while Katherine Heigl continues to prove that karma is a wicked..whatever with her attempted franchise One for the Money. Still, these obvious affronts pale in comparison to the real dreck of 2012. Beginning with number ten, it’s a true collection of crap.
This was a tough call. Let’s make things clear right up front—we support our troops in any endeavor they choose—except, perhaps, for acting. The casting of “real life” Navy SEALS may have been a selling point to the studios, but it ends up turning what could have been a decent, direct action film into a travesty of forced line readings. And then, to make matters worse, the screenwriters craft onto it a cliched ending involving a pair of ‘friends,’ a random hand grenade, and…well, you can guess the rest. Patriotism shouldn’t be so ham fisted and false, all attempts at ‘authenticity’ aside.
Take Transformers, dumb it down about two dozen IQ points, and then stick in some surprisingly spry members of the Greatest Generation and you’ve got Peter Berg’s laughable studio Summer tent pole. As if the premise based on a board game wasn’t goofy enough, the finale finds survivors of the bombing of Pearl Harbor—which, by the way, occurred in 1941…70 years ago—manning the last Luddite battleship to take on the sea-bound alien swarm. Huh? Mathematics put these senile sailors somewhere in their late ‘80s, and yet they’re ready to fight again for their country? Makes about as much sense as Rihanna’s casting.
Four funny guys, including a fascinating unknown quantity from the UK, turn what should have been a sly satiric Men in Black meets The ‘burbs into 90 noxious minutes of non-laughs. You can tell the cast knew they were stuck in a turkey by the way they try and force the funny business. Vince Vaughn is so obvious in his desperation that the flop sweat practically flies off his forehead and into the audience… and the film’s not even in 3D. While it would be nice to say that all involved deserve better, it’s clear that a paycheck, not a decent script, which drove them.
Sigh. Bradley Cooper will probably garner an Oscar nomination (if not a win) for his work as the psychotic Eagles fan in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook? The only possible barrier to such Academy Gold? His Norbit like turn as a dreadlock wearing drug dealer in this slight, stupid romantic comedy road pic. This is a laugher without same, a thriller minus the necessary nail-biting. It’s car chases consist of people doing donuts around abandoned airfields and, when the going gets really, really tough, they decide to drag out overweight and/or elderly swingers to show off their sideshow like genitals. Ugh.
Decades from now, when she’s picking up her umpteenth award (or sitting at a Comic Con autograph station, trading on her Hunger Games cache), Jennifer Lawrence will still be asked to explain this hackneyed horror misstep…and one imagines her having little to defend. As with many PG-13 scarefests, this dumb as a doorstop effort has lots of atmosphere, minimal dread, and a twist ending that only makes sense if the local police were the most misguided investigators in the history of law enforcement. A trip to the town’s planning commission could have cleared up this “mystery” in a mere blueprint reading. Just awful.
// Notes from the Road
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