The 10 Worst Movies of 2014

August 24, 2015 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews

Here we go, my worst 10 films of 2014. I saw a lot of terrible movies, but none worse than these 10.

As with previous years, this list is based on my ratings at the time of review, and I made it extra easy for myself this year because there are exactly 10 films I rated 1.5 stars or below.

I still had some difficult decisions to make, however, as movies 8-10 on this list all had the same rating. It does mean though that the top 2 were clearly head and shoulders above (or should I say below) the rest.

Unfortunately, that means some truly terrible movies missed the cut. These dishonourable mentions include Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me, and Samuel L Jackson’s Reasonable Doubt.

10. Sniper: Legacy

I need the money

I need the money

I had a long hard think about placing this film, an obvious B-grade, straight-to-DVD abomination, higher on the list. Strictly speaking it is probably worse than some of the other films ranked above it, but the difference is that no one expected Sniper: Legacy to be anything but a low-budget cash grab milking the legacy (pun intended) of the original film released 21 years ago. Its shittiness is almost anticipated, so I can’t claim an ambush. I totally deserve this one.

9. Winter’s Tale


Colin Farrell’s hair sums up this movie quite well

On paper, Winter’s Tale should have been pretty good, a magical fantasy romance fable with big stars (Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Will Smith). Sadly, all it did was make me cringe and bored. Non-sensical, contrived, manipulative and just plain silly at times, it’s the perfect example of what works on the page won’t necessarily work on the screen.

8. The Other Woman

Yes, it's as stupid as it looks

Yes, it’s as stupid as it looks

As annoying as the self-righteous women are in this film, it’s worst sin is still the most serious one when it comes to comedies: a dearth of laughs. You would think a movie that’s supposed to about female empowerment would have some positives, but the fact that it’s branded as mysognistic shows how far off the mark it was.

7. Ouija


All signs point to “crap”

I think Oujia boards are really scary and I knew it was only a matter of time before a horror film based on this theme is made, but Oujia turned about as cliched and unimaginative as it could have been. The characters don’t act remotely like how normal human beings would act. The dialogue is cringeworthy and full of obvious exposition. Silly, non-sensical and employing only the most typical scare tactics, this is a disappointment that’s even more disappointing than usual.

6. Transformers: Age of Extinction


Oh god…

Let’s face it, no “worst of” list is complete without an entry from Michael Bay. Strictly speaking, Transformers 4 is not the worst of the franchise, but the accumulated annoyance from the same old loud noises, boring characters and formulaic execution makes it difficult to bear for 90 minutes, let alone an inexcusable 165. Additional demerit points for all the awkward “Chinese elements” they forced into the film.

5. Walk of Shame

It is indeed a shame

Don’t shoot me for making this movie

It’s hard to hate a film when it’s so “meh.” And that’s what Walk of Shame is, an unfunny, boiler-plate screwball comedy that shits all over the lovely and talented Elizabeth Banks. I didn’t find it as sexist or racist as lot of other offended viewers and critics, though when a movie is so lacking in wit and pathetic perhaps a bit of controversy would have at least stirred up some interest.

4. I, Frankenstein

Aaron Eckhart worked out for this?

I got ripped for this shit?

I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but I, Frankenstein crashed below the low expectations I already had and was a complete waste of the talents of Aaron Eckhart and his impressive workout regime. Incredibly silly even by graphic novel standards, the film takes Mary Shelley’s source material as fact and throws in a bunch of gargoyles, demons and angels into a war with poor fight sequences shocking and shockingly bad CGI effects. The 2014 “blockbuster” that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons if it hasn’t been erased from memories already.

3. When the Game Stands Tall

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do?

Now we get to the three films of 2014 I loathed for reasons that are beyond objective and even generally subjective. First up, When the Game Stands Tall — relatively recently watched and still fresh in my mind– an infuriating corny and melodramatic film with sickening sports cliches, unbelievable characters and unashamedly overpowering religious themes. Laughably horrible trash masquerading as a triumphant true story.

2. Extraterrestrial

I'd rather be probed than sit through this shit again

I’d rather be probed than sit through this shit again

I love aliens and I love alien conspiracy movies. Extraterrestrial has turned all that on its head. Apart from being in the dreaded found footage format, this monster slasher also takes home the award for least frightening horror movie of the year, most annoying characters of the year and worst ensemble acting of the year notwithstanding the efforts of Shawshank’s Gil Bellows to bring up the average a little bit. This is so bad that it even destroys the possibility of a so-bad-it’s-good film.

1. Left Behind

Nicholas Cage. 'Nuff said

Nicholas Cage. ‘Nuff said

Of all the horrible 2014 movies I’ve seen, one film dominates all others — and honestly, it’s not even close. And you know that this film is entering a different stratosphere when I proclaim that it could very well be Nicolas Cage’s worst film ever. It’s just one of those surreal experiences where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s not a nightmare. It’s actually easier to conceive a world in which Christians are beamed into heaven while everyone else is left behind to suffer Hell on Earth than fathom how a film this shit could have ever been made.

So there you go, my worst 10 movies of 2014. Next up, the 10 best.

2014 Movie Blitz: Part V

February 12, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

Too many movies to review, so I’ve grouped some of the less important ones together in yet another blitz post.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)


This is one of those films that, when you see the poster, make you wonder why it didn’t get a bigger release. For starters, it’s based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story, and it features a star-studded cast including Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis and Michael Caine. The story itself is also quite interesting, about a young man (Burgess) who takes residency at a mental asylum allegedly using unorthodox methods to treat its patients.

Despite having all the pieces in place, Stonehearst Asylum turned out to be just a little better than adequate. It does have the feel of a Poe short story, with a good dash of insanity and creepiness, and plenty of devilish twists and turns, though the overall presentation and feel of the film came across as rather flat. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it dull, though thrilling it definitely is not. I just wish the execution could have lived up to the interesting premise.

Fans of this type of genre film could get something out of it, but for me, Stonehearst Asylum is straight-to-DVD selection — albeit a pretty decent one by straight-to-DVD standards.

2.75 stars out of 5

Out of the Dark (2014)


Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman — two actors who have fairly solid careers but never seeming to be able to break through into stardom. That’s even less likely to happen now that they have resigned themselves to starring in the “meh” supernatural horror, Out of the Dark, which debuted at the Germany’s Fantasy Filmfest last August.

Following a typical horror opening where some guy is mauled by an unseen malevolent force, the film follows Stiles and Speedman as a couple who move to Colombia to take over a business run by Stiles’s father, played by Stephen Rea. Naturally, there are scary ghost kids loitering around, and the couple have find out why that’s the case before something bad happens to their daughter.

A couple of effective creepy sequences aside (let’s face it, ghost kids are always scary), Out of the Dark is pure cookie-cutter. You just know there’s some sinister plot behind the haunting and that Colombian superstition stereotypes will be used. I’m not exaggerating when I say I figured out the mystery even before the halfway mark, and I predicted how it was all going to end.

The presence of Stiles, Speedman and Rea will probably ensure that this film gets some attention, but there’s no denying that Out of the Dark is a forgettable experience that offers nothing fresh for horror aficionados.

2 stars out of 5

The Anomaly (2014)


The Anomaly is a British sci-fi thriller I would put in the “good try, but no” category. Written and directed by Noel Clarke from Doctor Who, it kicks off with an interesting opening where an ex-soldier, Ryan (played by Clarke), wakes up not remembering who or where he is. He has just enough time to rescue a kidnapped boy prior to losing consciousness, only to wake up again later at a different time and place, with a limited amount of time to put some pieces of the puzzle in place before it happens all over again.

Unfortunately, despite it’s lofty ambitions to be some kind of absurd mix between Memento, The Manchurian Candidate and Source Code, The Anomaly crumbles under the weight of trying to do too much without being clever enough to be able to break through genre conventions or offer anything truly outside the box. And it’s a shame, because the project’s concept was good enough to attract names like Ian Somerhalder (whose face dominates the film posters despite a supporting role), Brian Cox, Alexis Knapp and the least-know of the Hemsworth brothers, Luke.

There are Russian gangsters, sultry prostitutes, federal agents, crazy scientists and plenty of stylistic slow motion hand-to-hand combat sequences, but The Anomaly can’t seem to escape its own campiness. Rather than the brilliant sci-fi classic Clarke was aiming for, the film comes across as more of an uneven, B-grade romp that runs out of steam way before it reaches the third act. There are pleasures to be had from such film experiences, though no pleasures derived from The Anomaly were enough for me to call it anything but a failure.

2 stars out of 5

Dying of the Light (2014)


Dying of Nicholas Cage, more like it.

In this profoundly boring thriller, the “actor who will do absolutely anything” plays an old CIA agent who remains obsessed with the terrorist who got away more than 2 decades ago. So when a clue pops up suggesting said terrorist might still be alive, Cage sets out to track him down with the help of a young agent played by Anton Yelchin. Never mind that Cage (and by that I mean his character) is literally losing his mind from a debilitating illness.

Given that Cage’s character is well into his 60s for the vast majority of the film, it’s kind of strange that they preferred to dress him up as an old man rather than simply finding an older actor for the role. Or maybe they just thought Cage was really really good at playing someone losing his mind.

Anyway, Dying of the Light offers very little in terms of intelligence, excitement or thrills. There are a couple of graphically violent sequences and a chase scene, though for the most part the film is devoid of genuine action, especially at the supposed climax, when you’re expecting it.

To be honest, I don’t know what writer and director Paul Schrader, whose distinguished career reached its nadir with Lindsay Lohan and The Canyons in 2013, was aiming for here. If he had intended to resurrect his career by creating a tense, stylish thriller with character depth and political intrigue, then Dying of the Light was a failure of epic proportions. On the other hand, if he just wanted to join Mr Cage in becoming a “keep gettin’ ’em checks” guy by sleepwalking through a straight-to-DVD effort, then I suppose you could call the film a success.

To be fair, Dying of the Light might actually be Nicholas Cage’s best film in a while, but that’s like calling the dump you took this morning the best smelling shit you’ve chucked in years.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Left Behind (2014)

November 17, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews


Maybe the end of the world really is upon us. Because there is no other explanation for how a film like Left Behind not just got made, but actually received a cinematic release. The only thing that made sense about the film is that it stars Nicholas “I’ll do anything” Cage.

Left Behind is like that Damon Lindelof TV show The Leftover, except it is directed by a career stuntman who doubled for Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies. 

The story goes like this: one day, all of a sudden, millions of people around the world disappear into thin air. Literally. All that’s left are their clothes and whatever’s on them. There’s an explanation for this, or at least a theory of the explanation, and it’s Biblical. Little did I know, Left Behind is a Christian movie about the end of the world, supposedly based on some obscure and utterly insane reading of the Bible. Even most Christians would agree that it is complete BS.

But that’s not the problem. There is nothing wrong with the type of movie it is or the premise per se — it’s the horrendous execution that makes Left Behind god-awful in any religion.

Although it’s about the end of the world, the movie centers on what happens on a flight from New York to London when the “disappearances” take place. Nicholas Cage plays a philandering pilot who dodges the birthday of his visiting daughter (Cassi Thomson) and spending time with his uber-religious wife (Lea Thompson) and young son so he could get naughty with a stewardess (Australia’s own Nicky Whelan). Also on the flight is a famous investigative reporter (Chad Michael Murray), who for some reason tried to hit on Cage’s daughter just before take-off. Also on the plane are — and I am not kidding here — a kind Muslim, a mean midget, and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. None of them disappear, of course, because they’re not true believers (or at least in the right god).

Even putting all the sanctimonious religious stuff aside, Left Behind is still an abomination. The script feels like it’s written by aliens because none of the dialogue or reactions even resemble what a normal human would say or do. Just say your little brother disappears into thin air right in front of your eyes. All that’s left of him is his clothes. And you can see that the same thing has happened to a lot of people around you. So what’s the logical thing to do? Yes, that’s right: go to the hospital to look for him! I mean, just in case he miraculously slipped out of his clothes without you noticing and decided to go there for some reason. And that’s actually one of the more reasonable things that happens in the movie.

The characters are horrible. They’re either disgustingly unlikable or they’re so noble it’s cringeworthy. And they’re played by actors — famous or otherwise — giving the most atrocious performances of their lives. I understand the budget was only US$16 million, but the inside of the plane looked like it was made in someone’s living room. The special effects looked like they were taken from the cut scenes of a Playstation 1 game. And the ending — my god, the ending. Apparently there are more books in the series, but it’s obvious there aren’t going to be more movies, so I have no idea why it ended the way it did. Everything about it was just an unfathomable mess.

This is the kind of movie that gives religion a bad name. It’s the kind of movie that gives bad movies a bad name. Have you ever had a dream where everyone is acting all weird and nothing makes sense? Left Behind is that dream, but worse. It’s a goddamn nightmare.

0.5 stars out of 5

2014 Movie Blitz: Part II

September 4, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

The movies just keep coming, I can’t stop them. Here’s another batch of films I saw recently.

The Calling (2014)


This was supposed to be good. Susan Sarandon plays a police detective living in a small Canadian town trying to track down a serial killer with illusions of religious grandeur. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, with the likes of Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace and Donald Sutherland. Unfortunately, while it’s not as horrible as some critics have made it out to be, The Calling lacked real suspense, emotion and surprise, and will likely become one of those movies no one remembers in a couple of years.

I initially thought The Calling was going to be a horror in the vein of Seven, but that was expecting way too much. The film started off well, building up Sarandon’s alcoholic character as a troubled but capable detective. Gil Bellows made a good right-hand man, and Topher Grace gave the police station a much-needed spark with his presence, though both of those guys were somewhat under-utilised.

The murders were interesting for a while, but after a while you begin to realise that the story’s not nearly as clever as it wants or needs to be. After a lot of build up in the first half there was a distinct lack of tension or intrigue in the second, as the perpetrator is revealed with very little mystery or conflict. I didn’t have a problem with the story veering towards the supernatural (which most critics tend to hate), but in the end the outcome was predictable and disappointing.

Though it’s one of those films that could have been a lot better, I’m also glad that it wasn’t a lot worse, which it very well could have been.

2.75 stars out of 5

Rage (2014)


Seriously, trust those American movie producers to change what was an original and intriguing title like Tokarev to a lame and generic one like Rage. But it is what it is, and it’s still a semi-passable Taken-style movie about a former mobster who will do all that he can to find his abducted daughter — a considerable feat considering it stars none other than Nicholas “I’ll do anything” Cage.

Rage was savaged by the critics as an overly-violent, dull action thriller that belongs in Cage’s movie basement, but I personally thought it was OK. Cage has already been in one Taken rip-off, the blatantly titled Stolen, but this one’s a little different for several reasons I can’t reveal. And Cage, despite the tragic hair, is actually pretty good in it too.

The premise is intriguing — Cage, a former criminal gone straight, goes out for the evening with his lady friend (Rachel Nichols) while his teenage daughter (Aubrey Peeples) hangs out at home with her (boy)friends. A bunch of masked men come in and abduct her, setting Cage off on a rampage to track her down through his old contacts, one of whom he believes has betrayed him to his enemies. The journey takes Cage onto a path he can’t return from as we learn more about his dark past.

Rage is indeed ultra-violent, but it doesn’t have the oomph of Taken because it’s mostly just a lot of loud shooting and meanness. Rather than being a skilled badass like Liam Neeson, Cage is an angry badass, which isn’t nearly as exciting. At just 98 minutes, however, the short length does mitigate some of the dullness. The film loses steam towards the end, but I quite liked the ending because there is a tinge of morality among all the carnage.

3 stars out of 5

Sabotage (2014)


This was supposed to be one of the big movies of the year. A post-politics Arnie back in full swing with Aussie star Sam Worthington by his side, along with a whole host of big names such as Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard, True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello, Lost‘s Harold Perrineau and Josh Holloway, Martin Donovan and Mireille Enos. It’s co-written and directed by David Ayer, best known for penning Training Day and writing and directing End of Watch.

The premise is a good one too — a bunch of corrupt DEA agents, led by Arnie, decide to skim a little off the top of their latest drug bust. But when the money they are supposed to share goes missing and team members start getting killed off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways, it turns the survivors of the once close-knit team on each other.

I knew it was going to be gritty, violent and explosive. And it was. But it also wasn’t anywhere as good as either Training Day or End of Watch. There are plenty of problems to point to, starting from the unnecessary gruesomeness of the whole thing. Sometimes the violence works, sometimes it’s it doesn’t — here it’s just kind of pointless. The other issue I had was with all the characters, none of whom are even remotely likable. It’s hard to watch a movie like this when you think all of them are basically brutish animals and a-holes you won’t mind seeing get whacked.

I wanted to like Sabotage, but there was way too much testosterone to be shared between all the stars, leading to a lot over-the-top swearing, sexism and fake macho stuff that just turned me off the story, which didn’t turn out to be nearly as clever as you initially thought it would be. And it even has this lengthy epilogue that was completely unneeded. Good performances, especially by Arnie, I suppose, but on the whole this is a misstep for Ayer and everyone else involved.

2 stars out of 5

Winter’s Tale (2014)


What the hell is this? I don’t mind the occasional fable, but Winter’s Tale was way too unconvincing and sappy for my liking. It’s based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, and tells the story of guy (Colin Farrell) who is raised by a demon (Russell Crowe) and later falls in love with a sick girl (Jessica Brown Findlay) while riding around on a flying white horse/guardian angel. So…yeah.

I kind of get that Winter’s Tale wants to be this epic, sweeping love story that transcends time and space and all that, but I found the package difficult to swallow, starting from Russell Crowe’s bizarre, indecipherable accent to the contrived love story between Farrell and Findlay, and the fact that Will Smith plays the Devil. Fantasy or not, it’s just not sensible stuff.

A film like this needed to give audiences strong, likable characters we can root for, but despite the significant 118-minute running time it felt as though not enough time was dedicated to developing them. The story has a lot of on-screen magic in it but you don’t feel any magic while watching it. The action is also stale, and the romance — though I’ve seen much worse — comes across as forced. And my god, what the heck is Russell Crowe saying?

In the end, I have no idea what this fable is trying to say. Like most flicks of this type, there’s beauty, love, the magic and there’s miracles, but none of it helped to make Winter’s Tale a fantasy I could enjoy, let alone immerse myself in. It might have worked for the book, but it didn’t come close to working for the film.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Frozen Ground (2013)

September 22, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Reviews


The Frozen Ground is a disturbing true story about Robert Hansen, an Alaskan serial killer who stalked, kidnapped and killed at least 17 women in the 1980s. But despite an all-star cast, solid performances and a well-crafted bleak, dreary atmosphere, it felt like a run-of-the-mill, straight-to-DVD thriller that may have been held back by trying too hard to adhere to real-life events.

The narrative follows Nicholas Cage, who plays Sgt Jack Halcombe, a righteous detective who sets out to find the killer and end his 13-year killing spree but has difficulty collecting the evidence necessary to put him away. Enter 17-year-old Cindy Poulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens, a local stripper/prostitute who managed to escape the killer once following a brutal encounter but is too neglected and afraid to step forward.

The interesting thing is, the police have had a suspect the whole time, Robert Hansen, who is chillingly portrayed by John Cusack. They just don’t have what it takes to arrest and convict him. So the challenge for Halcombe is essentially to gather that evidence, which includes coaxing Cindy to assist, while also protecting her from Hansen.

There really isn’t anything “wrong” with The Frozen Ground, written and directed by Scott Walker. The atmosphere is great, with the icy chill of Alaska mixing well with the dark tones and grim feel. There are moments of tension and drama (mostly involving Hudgens), and the acts of a deranged psychopath like Hansen always make for compelling viewing. The performances are excellent, and watching this film almost makes you remember that Nicholas Cage is an Oscar-winning actor who once turned down roles instead of appearing in every turd that comes his way. Vanessa Hudgens also looks and feels like a great stripper/prostitute with real psychological and emotional scars, and I mean that as a compliment. I suppose this film and Spring Breakers is her Jennifer Aniston-esque attempt to destroy her “good girl” image (though I thought those leaked nude pics had done that already…). Last but not least, John Cusack, who I’m almost always used to playing the charismatic good guy. Here he is creepy, calculating and silently vicious — completely making me forget that he and Cage once made an awesome duo in Con Air.

The problem with The Frozen Ground is that it’s too generic and straightforward, so much so that it feels like a glamorized feature length version or an extended finale of an episode of Law & Order (probably SVU). We know fairly early on that Hansen is the killer, and the revelations that follow — mostly interrogations and property searches — all come with an air of predictability. There are no exciting discoveries or twists and only a handful of sequences that could be considered “action”, the result of what I am assuming is an effort to align the story with what really happened as much as possible. We often complain about filmmakers abusing their “artistic license” when it comes to true stories, and this film is the opposite. Without being disrespectful to the real-life victims, this is a story that lacked genuine intrigue and excitement.

Overall, this is a well-acted, well-executed true crime thriller without a lot of thrills, and despite the chilly atmosphere comes across as too bland to be memorable. Probably would have been a straight-to-DVD flick (a pretty decent one, mind you) but for the A-list cast.

3 stars out of 5