BP’s Ten Worst of 2014

1412258342001-XXX-AMERICAN-SNIPER-MOV-jy-2898-This list was compiled from the individual bottom ten lists of Scott, Josh, Aaron, Rita, Craig, Sarah, Jim, Tyler and David. Each film was weighted according to its placement on each individual list. As such, a film that appeared on only two writers’ lists could still wind up on the finalized list if it placed particularly high. Conversely, a film could conceivably be on everybody’s list, but not make the final list, due to low point value.10. American SniperAmerican Sniper is the most disingenuous film of 2014. From its insidious effort to link Iraq to the terrorist attacks of September 11th to its cartoonish portrayal of the Iraq theater itself–seemingly a simple endeavor that is easily won if only they can catch that one wascally wabbit–American Sniper revels in its fabricated version of wartime vérité. But it is most deserving of derision for pretending to play Devil’s Advocate to history’s oldest philosophical and moral conundrum: is Chris Kyle (i.e. war itself) inherently just and noble? But American Sniper is a poor mediator, posing as an unbiased witness while nudging the audience towards a definitive answer. It frames the question in a way that seems impartial but only allows for variations of the same answer: Is war hell but ultimately noble, or is war noble but sometimes hell? How trusting can we be of a film so inherently dishonest?- CSThe Imitation Game Movie New Pic (2)9. The Imitation GameThe Imitation Game is a decently-constructed, somewhat “well-acted” (in the constrictive modern method-y sense), occasionally stirring piece of drama. It also has no active interest in its subject. Utilizing cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch, at his most overdetermined) purely as an object of admiration, it totally disregards him as a human being. He perhaps single-handedly won World War II, the film touts. Never mind this wholly fictitious scene in which he conceals an enemy spy, an act of treason. “And wasn’t it a shame, how he was punished for being gay?”, the film begs, in what must be considered among the worst-conceived, most obligatory epilogues. Yes, but by ignoring any other expression of his sexuality, the film is complicit in the same stigmatizing it condemns. His gayness is never challenged, never confronted, never considered, by the character or anyone he encounters. It seems to exist outside of himself. While happy to mourn his suffering, the film is scared to death of actually exploring (let alone celebrating) his gay life, which, in turn, undermines that very tragedy. The Imitation Game is not exactly badly-made (a little on the bland side, perhaps), but it’s an awful, offensive, and reprehensible film. “Honor the Man,” Weinstein’s For Your Consideration ads trumpet. If only they had. -SNThe Legend of Hercules Movie Film 2014 - Sinopsis8. The Legend of HerculesThe Legend of Hercules is a film that is so completely inept in every single phase of its construction that even the January dumping ground seems unworthy of having received it. Undoubtedly the film was conceived as a starring vehicle to theorize if shallow Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz could be a box office draw on his own, but even if Lutz were the second coming of Brando (he’s not), the red flags of the film’s 4 credited writers – one of which being the film’s mediocre action director, Renny Harlin – no name supporting cast and awful CGI constructions would still doom a film that hopes to earn its “Legend” status by ripping off vastly superior films. -JRfullsizephoto2751907. SnowpiercerFirst off, please know that I do not completely hate Snowpiercer. It’s got an interesting premise, and wonderful performances from Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill, both of whom I put on my BPs ballot because I am not a monster. My problem with the film is . . . well, basically everything else. As intriguing as the premise sounds, large parts of it do not make any sense to me. How are these train tracks not already in horrible disrepair? Where is all the stuff on this train coming from? We see what looks like a butcher shop car that’s filled with raw meat; does that mean there’s also some sort of farm car where they raise animals? More than one train seems to be devoted to debaucherous parties where people are wearing fancy clothes and getting wasted – who is making the fancy clothes and the alcohol, and how? How effing long can this train possibly be? A few lapses in logic would not be a big deal if the story and characters were compelling, but with the exception of Swinton and Pill’s characters, they’re largely not. I didn’t know it was possible to leech all the charisma out of Chris Evans, but Snowpiercer manages to do it, while also wasting Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, and a bunch of other interesting actors on one-dimensional roles that don’t resemble real people as much as pawns designed to advance a schematic action plot. Many people have pointed to Snowpiercer’s social commentary as the thing that makes it special, but that too struck me as facile and kind of boring, since it basically amounts to, “Income inequality exists and can sometimes be very bad.” There are a handful of fun, inventive moments in Snowpiercer (I like a good axe fight as much as the next guy), but overall, it’s a sloppy, dim-witted disappointment. -RCneighbors-movie-dave-franco-christopher-mintz-plasse26. NeighborsSpecial effects and comedy rarely mix. I’m not talking about Zac Efron’s abs here. He (and they) do a pretty good job in Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors, even though Dave Franco steals most of the fraternity scenes out from under the former Disney star. I’m talking about the recurring (and recurring) gag of car airbags hidden in chairs and sofas that send bodies flying across the room. It’s not funny and it’s violently over the top. It’s a “more is more” approach to comedy that typifies the whole movie. I’m also talking about the fake breasts prosthesis Rose Byrne wears in another grotesquely exaggerated bit. Those false, swollen mammary glands are one of the main reasons so many people were inexplicably chirping about how great and game Byrne’s performance is. It’s patronizing to behave as if we should applaud a pretty actress for playing along with puerile childishness. And it’s also a sign of an apparent, collective memory loss to behave as if we didn’t already know Byrne could be funny. She was great in Bridesmaids. In fact, everyone in Neighbors has been better elsewhere. -DB1538405. Winter’s TaleWinter’s Tale is a bit like an abstract painting. The elements make sense separately: paint, canvas, light, shapes, but together it is confusing. Winter’s Tale is the film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s magical realism novel of the same title. Magical realism is easier to portray in books than film, but Winter’s Tale never gets its feet under it in its entire 118 minute run. To be fair, I’ve heard from people I trust that the novel is very good, but the movie adaptation is a mess from beginning to end. The story spans from the Edwardian Era to 2014 in New York City. Colin Farrell plays Peter Lake, a thief who falls in love with a wealthy heiress named Beverly Penn played by Jessica Brown Findlay. Beverly dies of consumption after a romantic night with Peter. Peter is then attacked by his old boss/mob lord played by Russell Crowe and he falls in the Hudson River. He then stays the same age for one hundred years until he meets a little girl with cancer whom he is supposed to use a miracle to save. Got it? To make matters even more confusing, Crowe is actually a demon, there is a flying horse that is also a dog that is also a God, light is magic, there is a magical time-traveling stablehand, there are miracles, and even The Devil. This Valentine’s Day flop wasn’t romantic in the least and served to confuse rather than inspire its audience. -SB074. Transformers: Age of ExtinctionI can’t say I’m the hugest fan of the Transformers series, but I’ll give some credit for the first film’s sense of wonder and the third film’s epic action conclusion and decent use of 3D. Transformers: Age of Extinction takes a thundering step back to the purely awful levels of Revenge of the Fallen. The mythology becomes even more unclear, the action remains mostly incomprehensible, equaled by the character motivations. Then there’s the at times bizarre, at times tasteless Michael Bay humor – one particular sequence works way too hard to justify statutory rape. The film is also one of the most egregious examples of “normal” people becoming involved in world-scaled goings on – within about a half hour of screen time, Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager (OK, +1 for that character name) goes from being a struggling “inventor” unable to pay his bills in idyllic Texas to hanging off skyscrapers in Chicago. And then China for some reason (well, besides the funding). I’ve always felt the Transformers films would be better without these meddling humans, but this is a particularly egregious example of that. I suppose if you could connect with or even believe in these characters (did I mention that Mark Wahlberg plays an inventor… from Texas?) it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. -APgod-s-not-dead-image013. God’s Not DeadA surprise financial hit within the Christian community, God’s Not Dead is actually somewhat ambitious. It attempts to juggle a large ensemble of characters whose stories are interconnected, both practically and thematically. There are many great movies that do this (Nashville, Magnolia, Short Cuts, etc.), but God’s Not Dead seems unable to keep all the plates spinning. In order to make a memorable ensemble piece, a director must be at the top of his game, surrounded by talented artists and working from interesting material. This film has none of that. Instead, it does what so many other Christian films have done before it; it abandons nuance and subtlety in favor of an obvious, simplistic message that undercuts whatever artistic ambition the film may have had. -TSkirk-cameron-saving-christmas-e14163363307092. Saving ChristmasDarren Doane’s Saving Christmas isn’t a bad movie. It’s so much more than that. It blows past basic designations of “good” and “bad” within the first ten minutes, eventually arriving at “mystifying.” The awful improvised dialogue, the excruciating use of slow motion, the padded running time, the dance sequence; it all adds up to a movie that makes one wonder how anybody- be it the director or viewer- could ever be satisfied with the output. It even manages to muddle its message, which is the one thing that Christian films can be counted on to deliver clearly and obviously. In the end, it is a film that is so jaw-droppingly ridiculous, it almost feels experimental. But, it’s not. It’s not… -TSrobocop-remake-2013-20141. RoboCopRoboCop, the 2014 remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film, has as much reason to exist as dorsal fins on a zebra. It’s a technical disaster; action sequences are stiff and rigid, forfeiting interesting choreography in favor of shiny things blowing up. And the acting–including Joel Kinnaman as the titular cop and Samuel L. Jackson as a walking affectation–is a total wash. But the remake’s greatest sin is that it is a cynical cash grab, using the original film’s iconography in place of any novel ideas. The original Robocop was a punk song, a meditation on violence and corporate totalitarianism that shouted its themes with little subtlety but to great effect. Jose Padilha’s 2014 Robocop shaves off any edge and turns in an infirm reimagining of one of the most provocative action films of all time. If Verhoeven’s original film is a punk song, Padilha’s remake is a lackluster cover as dangerous and dynamic as an Anita Bryant tune. -CS

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10 Responses

  1. Duncan says:

    The criticisms of American Sniper as chest-thumping, right-wing propaganda seem really bizarre to me. The film goes to great lengths to demonstrate the dehumanizing effects of war and blind patriotism, and (at least in my interpretation) ends on a deeply ambivalent note over what kind of characteristics American culture attaches to its “heroes”.

    Arguments that the film is attempting to justify the Iraq War by linking it to 9/11, and cultivate this myth of the “big bad”, hold even less water, since they are so clearly meant to be filtered through the disinformation of the time, Kyle’s blind patriotism, and the destructive “hero complex” which the film is picking apart.

    I agree with your other choices though. 🙂

    • Aaron B says:

      Completely agree. I think this film is a lot more interesting and thoughtful than people give it credit for.

      For example, consider the early scene of Kyle’s childhood where he beats up a kid who he said was making fun of his brother. His father gives him the speech about how there are three types of people in the world and then asks his son if he “finished it?” That moment could have been filmed in a heroic way, but instead what we get is a rather brutally violent shot of this little kid punching another child in the face repeatedly. I think the film very clearly asks the question “is this the beginning of American agression? Is this what it means to be a man?”

      In another scene, and I grant that it’s a blink or you miss it moment, Kyle’s honesty is even called into question. A higher up mentions that someone has claimed he shot an unarmed Iraqi. His response is something along the lines of “I don’t know what a Quran looks like, but he was carrying a gun.” It might be a small moment, but it wasn’t put there for no reason.

      And then of course we have the many intense scenes state side of him unhinged, whether it’s banging on the nursery glass or about to beat the living shit out of a dog. The man is a shell of his former self.

  2. Ryan says:

    No offense, but this list really just feels like a lot of contrarianism. Are Snowpiercer and The Imitation Game really worse than A Haunted House 2 or Left Behind? Is Neighbors worse than A Million Ways to Die in the West or Sex Tape? Are you folks simply avoiding the losing of the consensus dreck to be different? Did you just not see any of those direct to video turds that get released every week? Or is this list just an attempt to take a stab at a few flicks that are alternatively on other critics’ top ten lists? Cause that’s what it sorta feels like. Hell, I didn’t like American Sniper for a lot of the reasons listed above. But i felt it was more or less competent. Solid C-. Which would put it nowhere near my bottom 10. It just seems that a lot of the dislike I’ve seen towards that film appears way more angry at the films supporters or politics rather than the film itself. Which admittedly, I understand to an extent.

    • Battleship Pretension says:

      This list was compiled from our contributor’s personal lists. So there’s no one motivation or intent behind it. Only two of these movies (American Sniper/Neighbors) appeared on my own list. But, in our defense, I would imagine that when someone dislikes a widely praised movie like Snowpiercer, that emotion is felt more strongly and examined more closely than when someone dislikes Sex Tape.

      – David

    • Scott Nye says:

      I completely, full on, think Neighbors is worse than A Million Ways to Die in the West. By far.

      But, like our best-of-the-year lists, these of course come from whatever we were able to see over the course of the year. I certainly didn’t get around to A Haunted House 2, Left Behind, or Sex Tape. So in putting my own list together, acknowledging that I couldn’t really survey the totality of the worst the year had to offer, I boiled my picks down to the most offensive. They could be offensive dramatically, morally, artistically, whatever. Which, to my mind, makes for a far worse movie than simply one that is incompetently made anyway. Technical skill is nice and all, but what good is that skill when executed in service of something as wretched as The Imitation Game?

  3. Dan Heaton says:

    I can totally understand seeing Snowpiercer on this list. It’s the type of movie that’s easy to question because it’s an outlandish scenario that doesn’t really make sense. That said, I loved it and listed it as my favorite movie of the year. It was such a great and unpredictable ride, and no film gave me the same visceral charge as this film. The social commentary isn’t what draw me into the story, as it’s fairly simple. It’s one of those inexplicable situations where I loved it despite the issues.

  4. bob says:

    Snowpiercer is the definition of “high concept”. If you find the concept outlandish or implausible, don’t buy the ticket (and/or qualify your review thusly).

    And with American Sniper, i’m of the “separate the art from the artist”. Sure, it’s jingoistic and blowhardy – that’s what it’s about. But HOW is it about it? I actually give it demerits for things like the fake baby – how does the director not rework that scene so the baby is hidden, or in the crib, if the actor is sick? I can separate the politics & message from the formal choices.

    What does a movie aspire to? Movie 43, Neighbors, and A Million Ways to Die are not aiming for high art. Do they succeed at what they’ve aimed at? Mostly, sure. This is why Imitation Game is such a failure. It’s aspiring to be a weighty, arty movie about a tragic figure, but it’s lack of art and form detract from its success.

  5. Xibalba says:

    Pray you never have to watch Annie, you’ll enter the seven circles of hell. And not in a good way.

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