1) The Grand Budapest Hotel – Considering the fact that this is showing up on a lot a best of the year lists from people who know better, I must at least allow for the possibility that this isn’t so different from any other Wes Anderson movie (excepting Bottle Rocket, of course.) And if it is no different, then how could it possibly be a disappointment? Even if I haven’t really loved any Wes Anderson movie (excepting Bottle Rocket, of course) I certainly haven’t disliked any of them either. But even the best ones (Rushmore, Fantastic Mr. Fox) still feel empty. An ornately wrapped box with nothing but very expensive tissue paper inside.
What may have been different then about The Grand Budapest Hotel was the advertising. Perhaps someone finally figured out how to make a Wes Anderson look like a more complete version of a movie than it ever could be. Maybe it was just Ralph Fiennes, who seems like he knows how to deliver Andersonian dialogue correctly whereas everyone else has simply been trying valiantly this whole time.
So probably it isn’t that The Grand Budapest Hotel is worse than I should have expected, but the trailer was better than I should have expected. The movie is still a mess of telegraphed punchlines, people staring at things and each other and jokes about manners. So its appearance on so many best of the year lists only compounds the disappointment. The Grand Budapest Hotel disappoints in the intended viewing way, but also makes a disappointment out of every otherwise respected critic/person who includes in on his or her list of the best movies of 2014.
2) Veronica Mars – I didn’t have the emotional nor the financial stake in Veronica Mars so many others did. So I shouldn’t have any reason to complain. Maybe that is testament to just how terrible a movie this was. But it’s also a little to do with the idea of a crowdfunded movie that is all but guaranteed to play in a theater. A lot of complaining went on about at the time (though certainly more directed at Zach Braff’s attempt, which was maybe just as bad, but certainly not as disappointing) and while I am generally on the side of the network that cancels a show rather than the irrational side of the fan who just can’t believe this is happening, this all still had the potential to set an exciting precedent.
So when all that comes out of it is a long inside joke inside a tepid self-indulgent mystery, it’s disappointing not only to the people trying desperately to be in on that joke but for a regular moviegoer too.
3) Sabotage – It’s not just that Arnold Schwarzenegger was improving tremendously throughout this comeback of his. That he was even in this was mostly superfluous. I wasn’t so worried about him, is the point. And it’s not that he’s even slipped back so far as to be as bad as he was in The Last Stand, but he became the non-entity I sort of self-fulfilled prophesized him to be. Which is barely even on the list of disappointing things about Sabotage.
I don’t mind a movie being sold with promises of the wrong genre. That’s understandable with how things are set up at this point and can sometimes lead to great things, at least unexpected things. But when a movie wants to be seen as a fun but ruthless action movie and turns out to be a tepid (but gruesome) mystery about people who do much more exciting things and are good at them being killed off screen there’s nowhere to go but to disappointment gulch. You wait the whole movie for some semblance of the potential it seemed to have only to watch actors you like disappear in horrible fashion. This says nothing of the obvious plot twists nor vestigial Terrence Howard hanging around as an extra until called upon to be a villain.
Compounding the disappointment of Sabotage is the later release of Fury, by the same director and co-writer, which is everything and more of what it said it would be, with people you like doing the things the movie tells you they are good at, and action that can be (at times) both fun and ruthless (and even gruesome – though nothing compared to Sabotage.) So clearly he knows better.
4) Tammy – If this was just some misguided attempt to capitalize on Melissa McCarthy’s (hopefully not) brief window of above-the-title marketability, you’d still be disappointed, but you could more easily move past it and wait (hope) for the next one to be better. But Tammy was written by Melissa McCarthy herself (and her husband, who also directed); that’s a whole lot of control to allow a star whose profile has only very recently been raised to this level. More importantly though, and more disappointingly, that means this is the sort of part she thinks she ought to be playing.
Like everyone else, I’ve rewatched some Gilmore Girls on Netflix lately and it’s difficult to reconcile that Melissa McCarthy with the one we are presented with now. Both are great, and it is only more praise to say that they do not seem like they could be the same person. And it’s not as if I am advocating some sort of spin off Sookie St. James trilogy or anything, it’s just upsetting that we can’t still see both. That Hollywood isn’t the only one forcing her to exclusively play variations the abrasive sort of Bridesmaids role is unfortunate and hopefully still only temporary. With Tammy’s failure, hopefully that can be true. But the reality is less promising. And the idea that she’s been firmly rooted in their camp this whole time even less so.
5) Cold In July – This is one of those disappointments that only begins halfway through a good movie you had no expectations of in the first place. Usually, that’s just par for the course. You can go home trying to remember the good times, those first 20 maybe even 30 or 40 minutes you had together. But not only does Cold In July start in jarringly interesting fashion, but it speeds along what seems like it could have taken another movie all its run time to tell. Which doesn’t have to be a problem, but seems to have been in this case. Because the turn Cold In July makes, pinpointed with a bizarrely unfunny pig pun, is so shockingly awful, in so many various ways, you really can’t believe you are still watching the same movie.
But it is. Based on one book that may very well have done the same thing within its pages. Perhaps making Cold In July the one time a movie was faithful to a book when it definitely should not have been.
Big Hero 6 – It might not seem like it, because we’ve been blinded by Pixar most of the time, but regular Disney animation has been a streak lately too. They might not be the commercial successes Pixar’s have been, but not since Home On The Range have they put out anything truly bad. Not that this would qualify either, really, but coming after Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, it was difficult not to assume this had a chance to surpass them both. It didn’t.
Godzilla – You’ve heard it all before, I know. But you still haven’t seen it. It being Godzilla. I don’t like to judge a movie on what it could or should have been because you usually sound really stupid when you do that, but this seems like it had a really easy fix.
Oculus – Not that I had any expectations for this beforehand, I kind of didn’t even know what it was, but it starts out so well that when it descends into nonsense nightmare flashback jigsaw puzzle you might as well have arrived at the theater expecting The Blair Witch Project.
Gunday – As I made a conscious effort to stop ignoring India as a movie generating sweatshop this year, I came to realize that every Bollywood movie is going to be a disappointment. But while mostly I regard this as my fault for not yet understanding what makes Indian people love Indian movies, this was especially horrendous after (like so many others of its ilk) promising to be an explosive cornucopia of a movie. Also, it turns out Gunday doesn’t even mean you think it does (assuming you are, like me, a dumb isolated American.)
Obvious Child – Jenny Slate is wonderful and this seemed like it would not only showcase that wonderability but do so in a way that wasn’t just a regular romantic comedy. But it was pretty much that interspersed with terrible stand up.