As a nation, Malaysia had it particularly rough this year. Between the airline tragedies, the racial and religious hate-mongering, the shitty economy, the droughts and the floods, I think it’s safe to say we’re all glad to put 2014 behind us.
You know what else I’d like to forget? All the stinkers I watched this year. Or at least the ones I’m about to discuss, for they represent the very bottom of the pile. Each of the following movies are here for different reasons. Some had their heart in the right place but royally screwed up the execution. Some were cynical products that didn’t give a damn about the audience. And some were just incompetent works made by incompetent people. All of them suck big time.
In the true spirit of 1Malaysia, I’m now sharing my pain & suffering with you, dear reader…
NEED FOR SPEED
Nevermind that this was adapted from the video game of the same name, I think Dreamworks Pictures made a serious tactical error here. Based on the movie’s content, it really should’ve been named “Need For Sleep” and marketed as a cure for insomnia. Then it would’ve at least served some purpose. Overlong, lethargically-paced, and totally devoid of any sense of urgency, it’s like director Scott Waugh and his writers took a look at the “Fast & Furious” franchise and decided to go in the opposite direction. Meaning to say it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t exciting, and it sure wasn’t cheesy enough to be one of those so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasures. Even “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul looked like he couldn’t wait to jump into one of the featured sports cars and distance himself from this yawn-fest.
THE EXPENDABLES 3
The flat-out refusal of “The Expendables 2” to take itself seriously made for some good laughs and (just about) earned it the right to exist as a sequel. Unfortunately, Stallone is one guy who just doesn’t know how to quit when he’s ahead. His plans for more “Rocky” and “Rambo” sequels, along with this 3rd outing are proof of this. He’s also prone to forgetting what worked before. So instead of the let’s-make-fun-of-ourselves humour and the likable chemistry of the old cast, the star/producer opted for a dour, self-serious approach and a misguided focus on the charisma-free “young” cast. Sly recently blamed the movie’s failure on its bloodless PG-13 rating. He really should’ve blamed director Patrick Hughes’ messy camerawork and subpar action staging. Besides, the rating was merely the final nail in the coffin of a vanity project taken way past its expiry date.
10 THE ZERO THEOREM
It pains me to place a Terry Gilliam film on any Worst Of list. It really does. I enjoy most of his work, even the flawed ones like “The Brothers Grimm” and “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus”. The man is one helluva unique creative voice. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I found his latest effort indefensible. “The Zero Theorem” is a terrible film, pure and simple. The future world he conjured up looked like a cheap rip-off of everything from “Blade Runner” to “The Fifth Element” to his own “Brazil”. The social commentary was forced and patronisingly on-the-nose. And while we should never expect his narratives to be straightforward, we should expect them to at least be compelling. This one was just tedious. Not even a surprisingly bonkers cameo by Matt Damon, or an admittedly sexy turn by Melanie Thierry could save this from descending into a rambling, incoherent, and — worst of all because it’s Gilliam — uninspired mess.
9 I, FRANKENSTEIN
I’ve got to hand it to the makers of “I, Frankenstein”. Surely they deserve some sort of award for making the world’s most boring movie out of a premise so packed with juicy B-Movie potential. I mean, you’ve got a legendary monster reimagined as a super-strong kung fu-fightin’ anti-hero, leading an army of gargoyles against a demon horde! How could you possibly screw that up? Well, in the hands of director Stuart Beattie, quite easily as it turns out. I could’ve forgiven the low-rent production values or the stiff acting (Aaron Eckhart looks & sounds like he has a hernia) if they’d just delivered on the action scenes. Nope. It was hard to get involved in anything on screen when it was so painfully obvious there was nothing on screen but some amateurishly-rendered pixels and poor Eckhart flailing about like he was losing a game on Nintendo Wii. On the “Easy” setting.
8 INTO THE STORM
It was only a matter of time before the found footage style reared its ugly head in the disaster genre. The thing is, with NatGeo and The Discovery Channel already doing a great job capturing and showing actual footage of tornadoes, why did we need a fake-ass movie version? The short answer is, we didn’t. And certainly not in the way “Into The Storm” did it. Director Steven Quale once served as James Cameron’s 2nd unit director, and it felt like the only lesson he took away from that experience was to push the visual effects. In that department he sorta succeeded, with some impressive storm sequences providing modest thrills. He clearly learned nothing from Cameron’s emphasis on character. Practically every line of dialogue was a lame cliché, every attempt at “human drama” an eye-roller, delivered by actors who seemed to be in this only for the paycheque. And coming back to that found footage approach, it went from an unnecessary gimmick to an all-out irritation by the movie’s end. What a perfect storm of crap.
7 AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
Speaking of found footage, nowhere is it more overused — and abused — than in the horror genre. Smart filmmakers use it to create an immersive, visceral experience. Guys like John Erick Dowdle use it because it’s a cheap and easy way to get scares. That does not mean the scares are deserved in any way. “As Above, So Below” had so few tricks up its sleeve it had to recycle them to the point of predictability — the worst enemy of horror. I knew I was being played at every turn, and it took me right out of the movie. The sad thing is, there was a genuinely cool concept buried under all the shaky cam, selectively bad lighting, and maddeningly stupid characters. If Dowdle were to be punished for his sins like the protagonists here, I can think of no greater torture than to have him watch his own movie on a constant loop, forever.
6 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Ah, what would my Worst Of list be without a Michael Bay entry? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t automatically hate everything he makes. His previous effort “Pain And Gain” was somewhat watchable. And the fact that his latest “Transformers” flick is at Number 6 and not hogging the top spot says something about the movie. Well, it still says that it’s a godawful movie, made with very little regard for anyone’s IQ. Or patience. Or sanity. BUT. I will say that “Age Of Extinction” is a significant improvement over the last 2 instalments. Mainly because we no longer had to endure Shia “Punch My Face, Please” LaBeouf. And partly because certain aspects of this movie were genuinely entertaining. If only they’d gotten rid of the convoluted storyline, the useless side characters, the non-stop product placements, and exercised some restraint in the tiresome action scen — wait. That would pretty much make it a whole other movie. Right. Oh well. Better luck next time, Mikey.
5 Z STORM
I have a theory about the inspiration for “Z Storm”. In a particularly bad case of writer’s block, screenwriter Wong Ho Wa started flipping through the channels on cable TV and stumbled across the following: a Chinese government informercial about The Evils of Corruption, a Sesame Street singalong featuring H for Honesty, an interview with Kim Kardashian where she provided her professional opinion about “those villainous investment banker types”, and a documentary about diarrhea. Voila! The script for “Z Storm” was born! Then director David Lam decided to take an experimental art house approach: his cast was instructed to act like they did not know how to act. Lastly, he told absolutely nobody that he was actually making a comedy instead of the Serious Crime Thriller About Financial Market Manipulation everyone else thought they were making. But all that’s just my crackpot theory. The more likely explanation is that this is a laughably amateurish turkey of a movie, with a brainless plot and a simpleton’s notion of a rather complex socio-economic hot topic.
4 EXODUS: GODS & KINGS
I was looking forward to Ridley Scott’s biblical epic. Very few filmmakers working today can match his eye for stunning visuals and his command of scale. At the 11th hour, the film was banned in Malaysia due to “sensitive subject matter”. I managed to watch it outside the country, only to realise that the Malaysian censorship board had done everyone here a big favour. They saved us from an aggressively vile turd. You’d think that a movie based on a story from the bible would be interested in honouring its characters and events. Instead, in some pretentious need for “complexity”, Moses was portrayed as a confused, borderline delusional terrorist, and God was reduced to an irritating, argumentative, creepy brat of a child. I’m not even Christian and I found all this deeply offensive. Sacrilege aside, on a purely storytelling level “Exodus” was still a colossal failure. It’s like Scott and co were actively trying to make every single character as unlikable as possible. Except the villain, who for some inexplicable reason was made the most sympathetic character in the movie. And we’re supposed to come away inspired by all this? There are more appropriate subjects out there if Scott was merely looking to deliver spectacle and visual splendor, which was the only positive thing about this criminal waste of talent, time, and money (ours and theirs).
This was a late 2013 release in the US but only screened here in early 2014. Irrelevant, really. “Contracted” would easily make any year’s Worst Of list. I liked the premise (zombies are caused by a sexually-transmitted disease), as it had the potential to be yucky yet poignant while making a statement about modern day sexuality. Don’t scoff. Romero’s zombie flicks were razor-sharp social commentaries. But in order for this to work, it was crucial for us to feel for our afflicted leading lady. Unfortunately, the only thing the filmmakers made us feel for her was intense dislike, what with all her whining, rudeness and general lack of human decency. Zombies are scary because they are the total disintegration of everything that makes us human. It’s pointless when your protagonist barely qualifies as a person to begin with. Even at a mercifully short 80-plus minutes, this was an excruciating chore to sit through.
2 THE PYRAMID
It sucks that there are so many horror entries this year, but that’s just the way it is. Welcome to one of the laziest pieces of “filmmaking” I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. “The Pyramid” was so lazy, it couldn’t even be bothered to stick to the found footage format throughout, abandoning it abruptly halfway as if the cameramen decided it was too much work filming the backs of people’s heads, corridors/rooms filled with absolutely nothing of interest, and (this is my favourite) scenes plunged in almost pitch darkness. Which is basically all you saw for large chunks of the movie. Then the monster finally showed up, along with the sinking realisation that this is what they’d made us wait a bloody eternity for. A ridiculous CG cartoon that looked like the inbred cousin of the creatures from “An American Werewolf In Paris”, widely considered to be the worst werewolves in movie history. Believe me, this one was far worse. A small budget is no excuse for not trying. The people behind this tried to take us for fools but thankfully no one took the bait, making it one of the year’s biggest Box Office bombs.
1 THE MONKEY KING
What a roller coaster year it’s been for Donnie Yen. While he ended 2014 on a high note with “Kung Fu Jungle”, he kicked off the year with this thoroughly unwatchable embarrassment. “The Monkey King” is the ultimate example that just because you can cram lots of CG into a movie it doesn’t mean you should. Not when you haven’t the slightest clue what you’re doing. The mainland Chinese film industry has been trying very hard to show the world that it can pull off VFX-heavy mega-budget blockbusters on par with Hollywood. They’ve got a long, long way to go. I find it depressing that director Cheang Pou Soi went from the subtle, smart, and well-acted “Motorway” to this. Sometimes, good directors choose material that’s completely beyond their grasp. Blockbuster filmmaking requires a whole bunch of technical skillsets, which Cheang evidently lacked. Everything just looked wrong and incompetently executed here, from the effects to the costumes to the sets, right down to the makeup. What’s even more disappointing was his inability to recognise and rectify the utterly rotten script. Yen tried his best in the title role, but he was swimming against a tidal wave of pure garbage. Forget 2014, this is truly the worst movie I’ve seen in recent memory.
Check out Electroshadow’s Top 10 Best Films Of 2014 HERE!