Saturday, 19 June 2010

The worst films of the 2000s...

Soon after compiling a list of my favourite films of the last ten years I was asked what my least favourite films might be from the same period. As you might suspect it has been fairly easy to bring together a “bottom 10” list for the last decade. Within minutes of setting myself the task I had produced a list of some 30 films which stuck in my mind as being terrible.

Like most people, I tend to avoid seeing critically savaged films as a rule. So the universally slated likes of ‘Norbit’, ‘Epic Movie’ and ‘Catwoman’ have escaped being named here. It is definitely the case that there will be many worse films than I have selected here, certainly on a technical level, but these are the ones I hated most. None of the following (with the possible exception of one film) are even “funny bad”. Instead they are irredeemably empty, soulless, waste-of-time experiences.

On the list are a few films that maybe I am disproportionately bitter against because they let me down so badly, with two Disney animations, a Studio Ghibli film and a Coen Brother’s movie included here:

10) Jurassic Park III
Joe Johnston/USA/2001

I was such a huge fan of the first two ‘Jurassic Park’ films (especially as a dinosaur obsessed kid) that the inevitable poor quality of this non-Spielberg directed instalment was a crushing blow (I vividly remember how excited I was when the teaser poster was released). I occasionally watch this film back and for the first quarter of an hour I think “it’s not as bad as I remember.” ‘Sideways’ scribe Alexander Payne wrote a treatment of the screenplay and William H. Macy seemed a sound addition to the cast. However this optimism and goodwill all but evaporates when they set foot back on the island. Soon the Spinosaurus turns up and everyone starts talking to Raptors using bits of pipe. The effects are worse than those in the original, made almost a decade prior, and mumbo-jumbo, pseudoscience is far less convincing than the likes of “T-rex can’t see you if you don’t move!” I, foolishly, still long for a fourth film. But I just can’t take another one like this…

9) A Walk to Remember
Adam Shankman/USA/2002

Ok. This one is at least “funny bad”. A “bad boy” is sentenced to join a drama class to make amends for his bad behaviour. Whilst there he is tutored by a reverend’s daughter. “Promise me you won’t fall in love with me!” she says. One thing leads to another, blah blah blah, and the mismatched pair fall in love. However all is not well as the film reveals in a hilarious twist near the end. This one is not unpleasant to watch, I’ll give it that. On a serious note though, the most contrived, cliché rubbish you’ve ever seen.

8) Home on the Range
Will Finn & John Sanford/USA/2004

The film that finally sunk Disney’s hand-drawn animation department (after years of diminishing success), ‘Home on the Range’ is just so unappealing. Roseanne Barr voiced an anthropomorphic cow in the Wild West, who tries to save a little old ladies farm from being purchased by the local business tycoon. Thankfully Disney are now back on track with ‘The Princess and the Frog’, but thanks to this film we had to endure years of uninspired, sub-Pixar in-house CG films like ‘Chicken Little’, ‘Meet the Robinsons’ and ‘The Wild’ (see below).

7) Tales of Earthsea
Goro Miyazaki/Japan/2006

Between the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Studio Ghibli never put a foot wrong . ‘The Cat Returns’ wasn’t great, but that was a made-for-TV feature Ghibli used to give experience to the next generation of animation talent. However, in 2006 Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro, adapted Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasy Earthsea novels as ‘Tales of Earthsea’. The result caused a very public father and son rift, with Miyazaki senior very unhappy with his son’s efforts. The film was still a huge box-office hit in Japan, but the animation is notably limited (in the sense of re-used cells and scenes of little movement from characters) compared to every other film from the studio. It is also pretty dull and lacks (at the risk of seeming cheesy) the magic or the heart usually associated with the previous output.

6) Intolerable Cruelty
Joel Coen/USA/2003

As a fan, it pains me greatly to put a Coen Brother’s film on this list, but here it is. Made as a favour to the star and producer, George Clooney, the Coen’s did a re-write on a troubled screenplay, attempting to infuse it with their trademark style and humour. Some scenes feel like authentic Coen Brother’s moments, but these are still depressing as they remind you how good the Coen’s can be and make you ponder why you are watching such a broad, vacuous and dumbed-down romantic comedy.

5) Fermat’s Room
Luis Piedrahita & Rodrigo Sopeña/Spain/2007

The worst film I have ever seen at the Duke of York’s, ‘Fermat’s Room’ has a promising enough premise: a group of mathematicians have to work together to solves puzzles or else they will be crushed to death by the walls of the room. However, you quickly discover that there won’t be any clever problem solving here with characters instead falling upon the correct answers with all the sophistication of the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Worst of all I couldn’t escape the feeling that the production values made it look like an ITV3 drama rather than a movie. ‘Fermat’s Room’ was only shown outside of Spain because of its high-concept. Other than that it is of no merit.

4) Tropic Thunder
Ben Stiller/USA/2008

Not one solitary laugh in this really long, high-concept comedy which rips off the 1986 gem ‘Three Amigos!’ without even having the common courtesy to cry “remake”. The targets are broad and still all the gags misfire. The thing that really makes this film criminally bad is that the people involved and the concept could and should have been funny. For example, the faux-action movie sequences could have been funny but instead of playing it straight the film goes for all-out comedy and ends up having no atmosphere. Also, any filmmaker that thinks a man in a fat suit singing and dancing badly constitutes comedy gold should have their human rights indefinitely suspended.

3) Knowing
Alex Proyas/USA/2009

The worst in a long line of appalling Nicolas Cage vehicles in that last ten years, ‘Knowing’ is shameful in its use of real life disasters (such as 9/11) for a high-concept, thriller plotline that involves the discovery that these events were pre-determined. The film then lurches from plane crash, to subway derailment in a horrible medley of voyeuristic disaster-pornography. A big fake snuff film with delusions of grandeur, as the cod existential themes discussed fail to lend the film any weight whatsoever. It is also horrifically cringe-inducing as it involves Cage (a scientist) regaining his lost faith in god, whilst the climax (SPOILER) sees his child rescued by aliens (that look like angels) and taken to a garden of Eden to restart the Earth which is destroyed by a bastard god.

2) The Wild
Steve "Spaz" Williams/Canada-USA/2006

The second Disney film on this list (in a decade that started so well with ‘Lilo & Stitch’), ‘The Wild’ is the only film in history that I have wanted to walk out of at the cinema. This film came out the same year as Dreamworks ‘Madagascar’ and boasts basically an identical plot (a mad-cap gang of animals break out of a New York zoo and end up in Africa). But unlike previous similar Disney vs Dreamworks pairings like ‘A Bug’s Life’/‘Antz’ and ‘Finding Nemo’/‘Shark Tale’, this one is actually far worse than its doppelganger. Dull-looking, unfunny and slowly-paced, ‘The Wild’ is the worst Disney animation ever made (a fact reflected in its lacklustre box-office).

1) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay/USA/2009

Aside from the fact that I found the film to be more than a little racist (have you seen the Autobot Twins?!) and sexist there is also the fact that this movie is just very poorly made on a basic fundamental level. The narrative is incoherent. The fast-cutting nature of Bay’s music video-style direction is disorientating and the film is also overlong, running at 150 minutes! The lead actors have zero charisma and the spectacle of seeing huge CGI robots punching each other quickly wears off. Add to that all the misplaced sex humour in this ‘12A’ certificate movie and a dizzying number of “comedy” sub-plots. I hated the first one, but this easily managed to top it. Forget worst film of the decade, ‘Transformers 2’ is easily my least favourite film ever made.

As with the “best films” list, here are 15 more bad films from the last decade that didn't quite make the cut:
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Hancock (2008)
Kill Bill: Part Two (2004)
Inland Empire (2006)
Austin Powers in Goldmember (2007)
King Kong (2005)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Gangs of New York (2000)
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Superman Returns (2006)
Men in Black (2002)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Ladykillers (2004)

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