To be followed soon by the 10 best.
What are the 10 worst movies you saw this year?
10. Punisher: War Zone. Somewhere under this mess of neon lights and stereotypes is the best Punisher movie since the 1989 one with Dolph Lundgren. Ray Stevenson is good as the Punisher. Wayne Knight is good as his arms dealer. Stephanie Janusauskas is really good as the little girl of an undercover federal agent the Punisher accidentally kills, and her moments with Stevenson are directed with motherly care by gorgeous kickboxing champion Lexi Alexander. But I was hoping that an action-oriented female director would inject something fresh, gritty, and real into the action scenes, and instead all we get is jerky editing and stupid, over-the-top kills. (Like when you expect the Punisher to jam the cocaine-sniffing henchman’s vial through his eye, but instead he punches his fist all the way through the guy’s face.) There were rumors that Alexander was removed from the film during the editing process, but I think the real culprit is the screenplay. Had this been leaner, meaner, and more consistent, I think it would have been a lot better.
9. Wanted. Slick, stylish, and more entertaining than it really has a right to be, this still feels like it was made by 13-year-old boys for 13-year-old boys. It’s not as childish as most of the graphic novel that inspired it, but it does trade in the graphic novel’s clever superhero satire for … a magical loom of destiny? What? It’s also easy to figure out all of the film’s twists because of hints and red herrings that are presented far too early and obviously.
8. Doomsday. I love movies that are comfortable with what they are and don’t try to be something they’re not. If Doomsday had stuck to its promise of giving us a couple of hours of the ludicrously hot Rhona Mitra pulling a Mad Max on the psychotic inhabitants of a blasted, post-apocalyptic wasteland, I’d have been fine with that. But it takes too many detours and takes itself too seriously. Director Neil Marshall had the perfect formula with Dog Soldiers, but started to show some troubling trends in The Descent. Sometimes less is more, especially when what’s less is still way damn good.
7. The Happening. The Sixth Sense is amazing. Unbreakable is awesome. Signs is one of the most awesomely terrifying films I’ve ever seen, and there are scares, heroics, and morality plays aplenty in The Village. But even though I understood what writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was doing in Lady in the Water, he still lost me with it. With The Happening, he seemingly lost every bit of knowledge he ever had about suspense, pacing, and plot. Embarrassing and appallingly bad. And obvious. Yikes.
6. Cloverfield. I did like the monster. I really, really did. But I found it hard to root for a protagonist whose own brother called him a douchebag … because he was such a douchebag.
5. Hancock. Peter Berg directed my favorite film from last year — The Kingdom. And the first half of Hancock is as fun and as entertaining as anything you’ll see all year. But then the film takes a crazy, nonsensical turn that devolves it into a ham-fisted mess. Will Smith and Charlize Theron get the worst of the collateral damage here despite their best efforts; only Jason Bateman emerges relatively unscathed.
4. Vantage Point. No more gimmicks! Every few minutes this heavy-handed political thriller stops and rewinds itself onscreen in a spectacularly annoying manner, so that we can see everything happen from another character’s point of view. It gets old really quickly, and the big reveal is revealed too early, leaving the final segment gasping for thrills.
3. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Please don’t mess with You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Most of my all-time favorite films are comedies, and Adam Sandler is hilarious, but I don’t think I laughed once during this.
2. Bangkok Dangerous. It should have been called Nicolas Cage Disastrous. Frustrating and unintentionally hilarious, despite the fact that Cage remains incapable of giving a bad performance even in something as god-awful as this.
1. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Awkward, uninspired, and ultimately the perfect example of how to kill a franchise.
(Last year’s losers are here.)