1) The Identical – Even if you already have a vague idea of what The Identical is, it is going to bear constant repeating.
As best we can figure to this point, someone liked the idea of exploring what might have happened to Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin had it lived and been given to a preacher and his wife in order to ease the Depression-era burdens twins could create. Weird, sure, but maybe not the craziest What If… scenario put forth by the cinema of 2014. Of course, there’s an obvious problem with making a movie from this idea, Elvis songs are expensive. And maybe completely unavailable to the person who wants to explore this weird idea. So now you are going to watch a movie about Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin but with generic rockabilly songs in place of the good ones that were famous for a reason beyond that the world was ready for them. Just in case you were having trouble remembering it is supposed to be about Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin though, because you don’t know any of these terrible songs, this movie will now cast a real life nationwide-contest-winning Elvis impersonator who looks like he should only ever play Sloth in a Goonies remake. So now you are watching a person who is not an actor play two people who sing songs that don’t exist while Seth Green does a bad impression of himself in Airborne in the background sometimes.
All of this is done in a largely unobtrusive, inoffensive way. It’s not a poorly made movie. The songs are dumb, but if you could manage to hear them from three rooms away it might not raise suspicion. Ray Liotta has a lot o missteps but occasionally does some things you probably forgot he has always been capable of. All in all, this should not be the worst movie of this or any year. But every few seconds you will not be able to help yourself as you realize what it is you are trying to watch and exclaim to no one in particular (because that’d be embarrassing) “What is going on?!?” And there is no answer. And then halfway through when someone in the movie says the words, “There’s only one Elvis” you will leap out of your body so you can see your own reaction because there’s nothing t prepare you for that after that long including this thing you just read telling you all about it.
The Identical is an enduring confusion. As if you didn’t already know.
Reason to watch it anyway: Hey, this kind of movie doesn’t come along so often. The good news is, now it will always exist.
2) Winter’s Tale – The person who wrote Batman & Robin and Lost In Space has an Oscar. And before you assume it’s one of those bait and switch Matt Damon/Ben Affleck Oscars, it is, in fact, for writing.
It seems like you ought to know that. To me, it seems like one of those things everyone knows, until I realize no one cares who writes what nor should they, really. It obviously doesn’t matter. The guy who wrote Batman & Robin still not only gets hired to adapt some of the highest profile novels into movies, but here, got to direct his own adaptation of a high profile novel. And while you may not know his name, his credits were still used to advertise this one.
All this is not to say that Winter’s Tale was always going to be one of the worst movies of the year, but it was and it always was going to be. So it is to say that.
The fantastical nonsense, like falling off a bridge and into the future, a horse that saves one person but not another, or demons who need to use knives, or people turning into stars, these are not things that dictate a worst movie. But when they are all treated with the same apathy by everyone around them, as if we should have read this novel and know all the wonderful significance already, one begins to see how perhaps it does matter who writes things. And moreso, that the person writing this particular things shouldn’t be. And further than that shouldn’t be directing the thing he wrote because then there’s no one to realize how much is being left out.
And this only addresses what isn’t in the (second) worst movie of the year. Because there is so much that is there and zero of it is good. Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell have both proven they can be great in otherwise terrible movies, never mind be great in otherwise great ones. But neither one has any hope in Winter’s Tale. And neither did we.
Reason to watch it anyway: You might think Will Smith showing up unannounced as the devil constitutes such a reason, but you’d be wrong.
3) Persecuted – It’s annoying, at this point, how obviously terrible the new class of Christian movies are intent on being. Saying that they are that terrible never seems to get through to them. They keep making the same mistakes. And making the same amounts of money (which is to say, not a lot, but enough to make more.) The very plot of this one (which you can easily glean from the subtle title) only serves as bait. It could be accused of being so bad on purpose, just so it can point its finger at us all later for being just the sort of people who would attack some innocent God-fearing movie simply because it has the audacity to say what kind of movie it believes in.
Ignoring it wouldn’t do any good either of course. And it is feasible in a case like Heaven Is For Real or even God’s Not Dead. Those are movies that are inherently flawed (aside from their religious aspects) but come close to resembling real movies even as they succumb to those flaws. You might have to make compromises in logic to watch them that way, but generally not more than you would for any other science fiction or romantic comedy. Persecuted isn’t so demanding in that way. It’s presenting you with what it really thinks is reality. God does not intervene in any tangible way. There is nothing to be set aside. The events of the movie, the persecution if you will, are a weak and barely functional metaphor, but it’s meant more as a revelation that this sort of thing could happen to anyone than it is a cautionary tale. Persecuted is like Gone Girl if everyone in the world was crazy instead of just Rosmund Pike. And, of course, if Ben Affleck had never done anything wrong in his entire life and was just telling it like it is on the radio like a responsible American.
And of course, if everyone was a terrible actor and wasn’t employable unless they had at some point made their approved religious views public because I mean, we’re all for freedom and everything, but this is God’s country after all.
Reason to watch it anyway: Maybe you are a Christian and you are feeling as though the world is chasing you with torches and pitchforks. In that case, you will want to see someone crystallize your feelings onscreen even if it is mostly clunky nonsense. Or perhaps you are one of those torch/pitchfork wielders and are starting to question why you do what you do. You could watch this and be instantly invigorated and redouble your efforts.
4) Not Cool – You may already know this, but Not Cool is one of two movies made from the same script as part of the social experiment/reality program called The Chair. If you know that, you already knew this was one of the worst movies of the year even if you never saw a second of it that wasn’t in that show because the guy directing it was so annoying and unfunny and kept wanting to bend the rules of the show to fit his narrow annoying unfunny view that you can see tons of on his immensely popular YouTube channel.
About the movie though, because that is what we’re here for: it’s a pretty typical teen comedy type set up but with the most annoying characters you could imagine. It’s kind of amazing really that this tired concept could be made to be this bad even. It seems like the act of making sure two seemingly opposite character types figure out they aren’t so different should just inherently raise things to some buoyant if barely watchable level. But I’m not even so sure that’s what happened. It’s definitely what was supposed to be happening, but there so much tangential nonsense bombarding you at every turn it becomes difficult to suss out. And it isn’t long before you have to take a look at yourself for even trying in the first place.
Reason to watch it anyway: I didn’t know it was part of a grander plan the universe had when I saw it, so I have no excuse. But that fact led to my brief bafflement that there were two movies with very similar plots written by the same person coming out in 2014. The other is Hollidaysburg and you should see that instead but really just watch The Chair and consider yourself finished with the whole thing.
5) Sin City: A Dame To Kill For – Given the horrendously out of date term used in the very title, one cannot be too shocked or surprised to find a movie that has zero interest in furthering any sort of female agenda. No other movie does either, as we are told over and over, it should hardly matter anyway.
When it’s this egregious though, it’s impossible to ignore. To the point where it seems like an inside job. Like PETA showing you slaughterhouse footage. They don’t want to do it but maybe that’s the only way you’re going to wake up. Women can’t do anything on their own, unless they are absolutely and illogically evil, of course in which case it’s cool to kill them (otherwise killing a woman is shorthand for how evil you are, you see) and to do it you might need to enlist the help of another woman, preferably one jealous of how much you love the crazy evil one you are about to kill or else why would she bother?
But Sin City doesn’t just paint women in these extremes. It can’t really even be blamed because everyone in it is a one note mumbling cardboard cut out (literally, it seems at times.) A man isn’t a man unless he is squinting and grunting and ready to kill someone.
With five different overlapping stories going on, you’d imagine at least some of this mess could be salvaged. Even if by accident one would work out. But they all may as well be the same story with a new famous actor whose only importance is being able to put their name on the poster.
Reason to watch it anyway: Mickey Rourke is still Marv and that character by that actor will always be a reason to watch something but this really tested that theory.
6) The Legend Of Hercules – The Legend Of Hercules was a series of surprises for me. That it existed, first, what with a much more celebrated Hercules movie coming out. That it would star Kellan Lutz who I thought was just some big guy that got to stand next to the star of the movie. That already big guy Kellan Lutz was now suddenly looking as though he could play the Hulk without any computer generated help. That VOD action star Scott Adkins could be the new standard-bearer for worst acting. And, of course, that Renny Harlin was still alive and someone was still letting him direct movies.
It became a community experience that immediately devolved into group therapy session with everyone unwilling to come forward with their story of what tragic event led them here.
Reason to watch it anyway: I don’t know what circumstance in which this might arise, but if you were to not have any sound available, you could do worse than to watch the visuals of this movie. They are way out of proportion, quality-wise, with everything else.
7) The Giver – The John Carter of the current young adult fantasy novel crisis we are mired in right now, The Giver probably never had a chance. All its good points have already been eroded by two or three years of seeing them all copied and spit back out by (possibly) lesser entities. With every passing installment, it becomes more and more difficult to surrender our disbelief in the ridiculous set ups the utopian worlds these movies inhabit. Never mind the way the main character is always “chosen” to be whatever he or she needs to be in order to be the main character is said utopian world.
While Mockingjay seemed paralyzed by its own success and The Maze Runner felt like an all out parody of the genre, The Giver plays out like the dull vision of one of its many unenlightened characters.
Reason to watch it anyway: Alexander Skarsgård does such an impressive job of being an ignorantly callous babykiller that it should have made everyone involved rethink everything they were doing because no one else around him comes close to inhabiting their characters as well in any way. I know you can’t have a cast of Skargsgaards necessarily, but there are more of them.
8) I ◊ Frankenstein – You might be wondering about that diamond symbol in the title. I don’t know where it comes from either, but there it is on screen right in the beginning as though someone discovered a new punctuation mark.
You might also be wondering why this movie happened, to which you need only to look at any other movie that’s come out over the past few years. It was inevitable and they really do try their best to make it make sense that Frankenstein(’s monster) could be a hero that can think and reason and fire a weapon and basically does not resemble Frankenstein(‘s monster) in any other way than the fact that he has some stitches in his face. In fact, if you can somehow get past the insult of the fast forward version of one of the greatest stories ever written that opens the movie, the idea of it isn’t as jarringly stupid as most of these classic horror reimaginings can be. It is not the given for worst movie you’d be forgiven for assuming it is.
The problems do not have to go past the casting of Aaron Eckhart though. Which on the face of it, seems like making the best of a bad situation. But his grumbling and lugubrious demeanor can drain the life out of any scene. He never seems to not know what’s happening even though he definitely shouldn’t and you are having enough trouble of your own. When it is revealed that somewhere along the line, the monster has grown a soul (and thus earned the name Frankenstein?) you can only wonder why the movie couldn’t have managed something similar.
Reason to watch it anyway: You probably think Bill Nighy is always great and wonderful and so it comes as no surprise to you to hear he is the reason to watch this movie. But the first part can be true without the second. Bill Nighy is in plenty of thing not worth watching simply because he is in them, even if he’s not the problem. And he doesn’t really qualify as such here either but I put myself in this precariouys position of ascribing some reason to watch these unwatchable things and there isn’t always an obvious one. So by default, the reason is Bill Nighy. He is great in it, which is a wonder, but is it enough? Not really. Though there is this one part where he turns into a demon and the demon has only three fingers on each hand, thus finally explaining why Bill Nighy can only use three fingers on each hand.
9) Third Person – You won’t know what’s going on, but it won’t be because you don’t know exactly where everything is headed. The title alone gives all that away. It’s such an obvious tell that you’ll trick yourself into believing there must be some other trick to it somewhere along the line, but you will be doing so much more work than the movie is all that time, so you will only have yourself to congratulate at the end.
Paul Haggis has made a career now out of proving everyone was right to decry Crash as one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time. I didn’t even agree at the time, but with every subsequent chapter put forth thanks to the blank check that win has written for him it is increasingly clear the world got it right the first time. Or second time, I guess, if the world can also be blamed for letting one of his movies win Best Picture.
Reason to watch it anyway: Olivia Wilde. You will almost believe she’s some unknown actress getting her big break the way she is acting. Because there’s no other explanation for a well known and admired person to be putting forth one their best efforts in this awful expedition. No one else cares and it is full of people who should know when the person acting across from them is about to embarrass them. The reasons for her character to be as weird as she is are just as unsurprising and nebulous as everything else about Third Person, but you will see a lot less impressive performances in much greater movies.
10) Action Jackson – I know it’s already too late, but before you get excited by that title, this is not at all a remake. That’s not even true. It is all a remake, but of another Indian movie you’ve never heard of from not that long ago. There is no one named Jackson in this, although they do somehow still manage to say the title a bunch of times and not in reference to the movie you were hoping this had something to do with.
If you are confused, that’s fine, because there is no way to make that not the case. I tried and failed to watch some Bollywood movies this year and while some (Happy New Year, Bang Bang) were OK, they were ultimately disappointments considering their clear contempt for taking anything seriously. I don’t think they are making movies the way we have come to think of them and may need another word. In light of this, maybe even Action Jackson shouldn’t qualify for this list. Until I learn this weird cinematic language where no movie and often individual scenes cannot hold on to one tone and plot points and characters can be introduced with minutes to spare, I should abstain. But something about Action Jackson goes beyond just my own incomprehension. It is a movie that still hasn’t decided on anything, including why it wants to call itself by this name.
Reason to watch it anyway: There is one dance sequence that while otherwise unremarkable and indistinguishable from any other such Bollywood scene, is populated by Elvis impersonators for no discernable reason except that they are all awesome and different and yet working as a team. A team of what I still couldn’t tell you, but it was great while they were there and I wished so badly they would come back. But they did not, because this movie has no idea what it’s doing.
11 – 15)
Perfect Sisters – If this was on Lifetime, you’d still think it was bad, but it probably wouldn’t stand out as such. Except for maybe that Abigail Breslin’s acting battery is running very low.
Sex Tape – Fear of technology blended perfectly with a fear of funny things.
Alien Abduction – This must be what it is like to be a film school teacher, sifting through endless untrained, ill gotten attempts at recreating something barely understood in the first place.
The Nut Job – It doesn’t say anywhere, but I assume this script is based on that C + C Music Factory lyric. You know the one.
God’s Not Dead – The true story of a (literally) unbelievably narrow-minded professor and a God who no one notices is just as much of a bully as he is.