By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. After the dust settles and the tears have been shed, when the we find ourselves in a better place where we can speak of the horrors that happened to us, that’s when Oscar-Bate rears its monolithic head to recount the year that was. This week, Matt and I remember all the dreck we’ve waded through since we began our ANTI-MONITOR series earlier this year, collating a nice little list for your perusal. (All while we pour one out for Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. He will be missed.)
JJ: The Amazing Spider-Man 2. How bad could it actually be? Well, I could mention that it’s the primary reason Sony lies wide awake at night fearing that they may lose their largest cash cow to the hungry Marvel Studios, or that it completely squandered not one, not two, but three iconic Spider-Man villains. But really, it was so bad that I spent opening night getting so irrevocably drunk with my roommate, that I completely forgot to write a review for it. So there’s that. Let me put it this way: if Marvel succeeds in reacquiring the rights to our beloved wall-crawler, people will miss Andrew Garfield for approximately five seconds before they start thinking about The Avengers: Infinity War.
MF: The Expendables 3. I will admit it. I am a huge Stallone fan. I loved The Expendables for its devil-may-care attitude toward action blockbusting, and I enjoyed the sequel for its bombastic excess and homage to its forefathers. However, by downplaying the series’ strengths in an attempt to wrangle a younger audience, The Expendables 3 ultimately appealed to nobody. The Expendables 3: The New Batch takes viewers on a PG-13 exercise in wasting forgotten talent in exchange for some x-treme sports “stars” (and I think there was also a hacker). Sly has capitulated his well-earned action legacy in order to maintain relevance, and he has failed. The Expendables 3 proves that this is no Hollywood for old men, unless they are grumpy or grumpier.
JJ: Transformers: Age of Extinction. If for nothing else, Michael Bay’s latest exercise in self-gratification made the list because it gave birth to the word “rebooquel”. If only his movie was as creative. What we have is the fourth in Bay’s incomprehensibly popular Transformers series, a movie so self-serious that it missed every opportunity to poke fun at itself – something that might have elevated this drivel to the realm of camp. (Think Trans4mers.) Replacing Shia LaBeouf with the hunk of throbbing gristle known as Mark Wahlberg wasn’t so much of a step up but a step over, and the star appears completely flummoxed by Bay’s robot gauntlet. Few movies hurt as much as Age of Extinction. What hurt more was that it was allowed to happen.
MF: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Michael Bay seems to be on a mission to get his greasy hands on any ‘80s cartoon he can convert into a live-action explosion. To say he merely produced this lifelessly convoluted toy commercial is underselling his influence. Where the earlier iteration of the heroes in their half shells was lithe and filled with excitement, this summer’s biggest disappointment was simply not fun. While the script was subject to screwy rewrites, and Megan Fox was tragically miscast as April O’Neil, the film’s biggest fault was the turtles themselves. In addition to their bizarre physicality, they bear no resemblance to the warm characters we once recalled. Thankfully, Corey Feldman refrained from involvement, preserving his legacy as the real Donatello.
JJ: Maleficent. Everything about casting Angelina Jolie as Disney’s most notorious malefactor made sense. That’s why Maleficent was such a woefully inadequate waste of time: in making an origin story for the most hateful nemesis in all of filmdom, Robert Stromberg’s phony fantasia squanders Jolie’s potential by losing her in a sea of hideous CGI. Angelina looked terrific, and for the most part, was terrific in a role that was so well-suited to her strengths that it aroused memories the actress’ goth-ier days (the villain’s horns even look like they were cross-stitched in electrical tape), but sadly Stomberg’s soppy kid-flick took all the joy from being unrepentantly evil. This was one story that never needed a happily ever after.
MF: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. When Frank Miller was consulted about returning to his comic properties in 2014, I imagine he adjusted his fedora and said, “just make sure Eva Green’s boobs are in it.” Nine years after Miller’s co-production with renegade Robert Rodriguez visually rattled moviegoers, Basin City is denied the faces and nuance that once wowed crowds, leaving behind a wasteland of recast roles, a blatant disregard for women, and a visibly haggard Mickey Rourke. Sin City may have been a triumphant return for the embattled actor/boxer, but its too-late sequel finds Rourke one punch (and botox treatment) too far.
JJ: The Monuments Men. What George Clooney’s stuffy history lesson has in artificial exuberance is nothing compared to its blatantly undercooked drama, and it’s in that mixture of the two where The Monuments Men truly stumbled. What was supposed to be a critical darling for the 2013 awards season was quickly jettisoned to a very early 2014 release, a giant red flag that portended certain doom to even the most casual film-goer. The embarrassment of riches the stodgy WWII yarn had in abundance – John Goodman and Bill Murray in a single picture? Pinch me; I’m dreaming – only proved to be the film’s undoing, effectively deflating any serious gravitas from the film. Did George Clooney lay an egg? You bet your sweet bippy he did.
MF: 300: Rise Of An Empire. Remember when everybody loved Zack Snyder’s history collaboration with Guy Fieri? Seven years later, per the request of nobody, Warner Bros. decided that seven years was not too long to capitalize on the world’s slowest-motion death scene ever and bring the exciting world of antiquity back to the silver screen. In underwhelming fashion, this return to Sparta leaves viewers questioning their appreciation of the original (as well as why a nude Eva Green cannot save a film). All the bells and whistles of 2007 are now old hat. What remains is a staid retreading full of unfamiliar faces and two beautiful, strong females that are undersold by the men surrounding them.
JJ: 3 Days to Kill. It’s fitting that this powder-puff Luc Besson/McG collaboration made the list, considering how dreadfully insipid this low-grade spy thriller truly was. Casting an officially over-the-hill Kevin Costner as the retired super-spy Ethan Renner (which, c’mon, that’s his name??!) was asking a bit much, effectively stretching the credibility of the once big-time actor a tad too far. In the race to cement Costner’s comeback, it’s possible that McG invested too much of his energy into the film’s well-paid stunt crew instead of placing enough faith in his still-eager leading man. McG directed Kevin Costner, all right. He directed him straight back into obsolescence.
MF: Dumb And Dumber To. The conceit of Dumb and Dumber To is that the same audience who loved Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as Harry and Lloyd in 1994 would love a return to the characters even without the charm of the original. Unfortunately, Peter and Bobby Farrelly have found themselves time-trapped in a dimension called “the tasteless ‘90s”, so what is left are two aging actors simply farting in place. I honestly believe that any laughs this film garners are driven by deep internal pity and self loathing. Like last year’s Anchorman 2 and potential future (unnecessary) sequels to Beetlejuice and the Bill and Ted “franchise,” Dumb and Dumber To is a futile attempt at recapturing magic in a world where magic isn’t fucking real.
JJ: Worst Movie, Forgiven: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. What really pisses me off that a Robert Rodriguez effort made this list two years running is that the filmmaker has the ability to take my vitriol and shove it down my throat. Instead, the man continues to think that films ought to be made in a backyard for next to nothing, starring friends who just so happen to be in town. Well to that, I say “fuck”. The more I think about Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s A Dame To Kill For, the more I want to burn my comic book collection and move to Albuquerque to be a… I dunno. A postal worker. And the fact that I’ll probably buy it when the film is released on Blu-Ray doesn’t make me feel like a better person either.
Wednesday: DoomRocket’s Top 10 Best of the Year – co-hosted by Tiny Mix Tapes’ Paul Bower!