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19 December 2008 @ 12:07 pm
worst of 2008  

Best film lists are so boring. Sadly I didn't watch as many terrible movies as last year, but here are some stinkers that I managed to catch, arranged roughly in order of terrible to mind-blowingly awful.

Vantage Point

Okay, this one was awful mostly because the "twist" was so utterly predictable. If the interest in your film lies almost entirely on a gimmick, it's best not to telegraph the big reveal from the start. The ridiculously out-of-character behaviour that makes the ending possible is as hard to take as a deus ex machina. This could have been enjoyable action schlock; instead, it's the kind of movie that makes you yell "No shit!" at the screen.

Sample dialogue: "We hate the American pig-dog capitalist dog-pigs for no apparent reason! Curse them and their many cola brands!" (Okay, this is not an actual line, but it might as well be.)


It's abit unfair to lists this because I only watched the first 15 minutes before turning it off in favour of something that was funny. If your comedy doesn't make me laugh in the first ten minutes, you're in trouble, buddy. And I really like Will Ferrell; I loved Anchorman. Sadly, this is pretty much Anchorman but without very good jokes. I guess Ferrell thought the crazy fashions were enough?

Sample dialogue: "Cock sandwich, that hurts!" (How many hours of improv did it take to come up with that?)

Dan in Real Life

My hatred for this movie might be partially caused by the fact that I saw it at the cinema. Okay, we had free tickets, but there was no escape! I couldn't even go and get something to eat to distract me. (We are not the kind of people who leave movies. Nor are we the kind of people who leave the theatre for anything less than a medical emergency.)

This film was an attempt at a quirky indie family film. It was like a robot saw Little Miss Sunshine and decided that this seemed like an easy template. Cute kids + kooky family + depressed people + love = box office gold! Unfortunately this robot, despite being able to make such sophisticated computations, was only able to produce sentimental goop in place of genuine sweetness. I made the "finger down throat to induce vomiting" sign many, many times. I would have groaned loudly and yelled at the screen but the people around me seemed to be enjoying the film, especially the painful attempts at physical comedy.

Also, Dane Cook is in it.

Sample dialogue: "Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It's an ability."

"Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised."

"There's rightness in our wrongness."


The Happening

This is #1 on a lot of Worst lists this year. I'm finding it difficult to express how bad this film is.

Grug and Lee saw this in the cinema, because they hate M. Night Shyamalan so much that they like to maximise their pain. (It's a sickness.) They came home and described every detail of the movie to me. I was prepared for it to be bad, but I was amazed at how bad it sounded.

So when I came to watch it at home, I thought I was prepared. I was wrong.

I'm sure by now everyone knows the plot. It's a plot so stupid it honestly sounds like an Ed Wood film. And honestly, if it weren't for the fact that The Happening is filmed with proper cameras, you could easily take this for the kind of film featured on Mystery Science Theater. The kind where you turn to the person beside you and say, "Why would anyone make this? And who would go and see it?" The script is wooden and stupid to the point of hilarity. The acting is astoundingly bad-- Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel are actors I really like, but it's going to take a while before I can look at them and not think of them woodenly discussing the emotional implications of tiramasu. (Look at the photograph above. They keep those expressions throughout the entire film. I can only assume that Syamalan injected them with tranquilisers whenever they showed sigsn of acting.)

The thing that made me angriest, though, is the film's anti-science agenda. Did science kill Shyamalan's parents? Does he resent it for creating the Internet, the place where he is most mocked? Because he has a raging hate on for science. Wahlberg plays A SCIENCE TEACHER who tells everyone that science is about accepting that there are things we can't understand:

Elliot Moore: Come on, buddy. Take an interest in science. What could be the reason bees have vanished?
Jake: [after a long pause] An act of nature, and we'll never fully understand it.
Elliot Moore: Nice answer, Jake. He's right. Science will come up with some reason to put in the books, but in the end it'll be just a theory. I mean, we will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding. To be a scientist, you must have a respectful awe for the laws of nature.

No, Mr Moore, that's faith you're thinking of. Not science. That's why science comes up with, for instance, malaria vaccines, instead of saying "That disease that's killing everyone sure is mysterious. I guess it's God's will or something!"

The film doesn't really have an ending, it has something even lamer than a deus ex machina: a completely unexplained escape for the main characters, and then the most pathetic attempt at a twist I have ever seen.

Also, all the reviews are right: the death by lions is the most (unintentionally) hilarious death in film.

Sample dialogue: "You know that everyone gives off energy, right? It's scientifically proven. They got these cameras that can record what color you are when you're feeling different things. People that are angry give off a different color than people that are sad. See this ring? This ring can supposedly tell you what you're feeling. Let's see what you're feeling right now."

Edward J Grug IIItedprior on December 19th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
Pretty surprised Hellboy 2 didn't make the list. Hmmm, I'm gonna see if I can come up with a few more...
Johnneovenator on December 19th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
Hellboy 2 wasn't great, but I don't think it deserves to be on a Worst Of list. At the very least, the visuals were generally quite good.
(no subject) - tedprior on December 19th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - finkenstein on December 19th, 2008 04:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - travisezell on December 19th, 2008 09:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tedprior on December 19th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tiny_monster on December 19th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tiny_monster on December 19th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
Johnneovenator on December 19th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
Yeah, The Happening was horrid. I watched it with some friends a month ago and after a few minutes we started making MST3K-style jokes for the rest of the movie. I don't think we ever took it seriously, it was just that bad.
Edward J Grug IIItedprior on December 19th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
The Rifftrax of it is awesome.

(no subject) - finkenstein on December 19th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jamtorkberg on December 19th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jen: kewpiemicrouniversity on December 19th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
The only one of these I've seen is Dan in Real Life. And I full-heartedly agree with you. The crappiest crap that ever crapped.
finkensteinfinkenstein on December 19th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
I haven't seen the Happening yet but now I totally want to. Have you guys seen the Lady in the Water? It is the most hilariously horrible movie I have ever seen. The ending, all the writing is so...half assed? Horrible? I feel the same way about the twist in that one that you do for the Happening, it is like, wait...was THAT the twist???? UUGHGHGHGH. Paul Giamatti is good in it, because he is a good actor, but everything else makes me die inside. I am kind of glad Shyamalan is around though, it's like he's making the movies future people will look back on and say "WOW, on all counts...what?"

Edward J Grug IIItedprior on December 19th, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
Haha, I've seen Lady in the Water, my hate of M Night has almost turned into love I think.

I can NOT believe he still gets to make movies.
Jam Torkbergjamtorkberg on December 19th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
God, YES! The Happening was SO BAD! GAH! I am pretty sure that M. Night has no idea how people would actually react to any given stimuli, so he tells his cast to never, under any circumstances, react to anything. That way, he will never be wrong!

Man! So bad! I think it now tops my list of Worst Modern Movies, modern being in the last ten to fifteen years.
Rescue Archaeologisttalcotts on December 19th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
Okay, I may need to overcome my extreme hatred of M. Night Shyamalan and see The Happening now.

That lion scene was amazing!
aaron brasseaabrassea on December 19th, 2008 05:59 am (UTC)
the happening as the #1 worst movie of the year? talk about predictable!
Edward J Grug IIItedprior on December 19th, 2008 08:23 am (UTC)
The twist is, I've seen it TWICE!
(no subject) - abrassea on December 19th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tedprior on December 19th, 2008 08:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - abrassea on December 19th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
travisezelltravisezell on December 19th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
I'm sure I'd agree with your list if I'd seen Vantage Point or Dan in Real Life (god knows I'm with you on The Happening, a movie I also suffered through in the theaters -- alone!), but I feel obliged to add:

"It was like a robot saw Little Miss Sunshine and decided that this seemed like an easy template. Cute kids + kooky family + depressed people + love = box office gold!"

a) I think that is an easy template (and I think Dan In Real Life did semi-okay, right? Box-officewise?).
b) "Cute kids + kooky family + depressed people + love = box office gold!" (and don't forget "+ formulaic screenplay") is exactly why I hated Little Miss Sunshine. No amount of solid acting can make up for it. It's a quirky-sweet way to make people feel like they saw a movie "about something." It's the Flinstones Vitamins of movies. I don't know if that metaphor is remotely apt, but I like it. Anyway, yeah down with sucky movies but I think LMS belongs on last year's list.
travisezell: travis photographertravisezell on December 19th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
(edited. I'm a geek. had to fix my italics.)
(no subject) - travisezell on December 19th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tiny_monster on December 22nd, 2008 12:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
trickytwelve_cards on December 19th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, this post is right up my alley. I love it when you write about bad movies, Jessica. I still have fond memories of your ripping apart of 300. Maybe you can join our blog? http://www.bs-movies.blogspot.com/

I have to see The Happening now. I'll still stand up for Unbreakable as being good despite multiple protests from Grug and Lee. I always like Shyamalan's measured approach to style, which is counter to Michael Bay's an image every five seconds approach. But when I heard about a character in Lady In The Water being a pesky film critic who is the villain and Shyamalan playing a writer who has the key to saving the world... well, let me say, I threw my hat into the ring by saying he must be crazy. I think you are right about his distrust of science. His films usually correspond to a Christian view of the world, particularly the jaw-dropping climax of Signs (aliens invaded the world so mel gibson could become a good priest again).

Dane Cook is the worst, particularly when he stinks up not half-bad movies with a supporting role (like the intriguing mess that is Mr. Brooks).

As bad as Dan In Real Life sounds, I think I would still enjoy it if only for the overwhelming likability of Steve Carrell.

Yes, Semi-Pro looks like a step backward for Mr. Ferrell. But I LOVED Step Brothers!
Edward J Grug IIItedprior on December 19th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
You can stand up for Unbreakable all you want. But you are wrong.
(no subject) - twelve_cards on December 20th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
trickytwelve_cards on December 19th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
Here's a contender for 2009 which involves a super phone that could kill you...

glummdeadglummdead on December 20th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
I didn't even register The Happening when it came out, but then I haven't been to see a film more than twice this entire year. Now you've made me want to see it...

I like your dialogue snippets, that piece you quoted reminds me of something Dara O'briain said:

"of course science doesn't have all the answers, that's the point of science, to ask questions. If science had all the answers it would stop."