- #1. Clash of the Titans
My hatred for Clash of the Titans has become the stuff of legend, but my bile was not spewed forth from the bowels of mere prejudice. With an exceptional cast (Liam Neeson, Mads Mikkelson and Ralph Fiennes among them) and the talented director of the still-underrated Unleashed at the helm, Clash of the Titans could have been a fine piece of mindless entertainment. But there’s a difference between being mindless and insulting the intelligence of every single person in the audience, even if their standards are low enough to thank you for it. Clash of the Titans boasts one of the messiest screenplays to ever have the gross national product of Uruguay at its disposal. Not a single plot point makes sense – from Hades literally going out of his way to reveal the flaws in his own plan to a king sending his warriors out on foot when time is of the essence and money is no object – and the murky cinematography prevents the film from ever succeeding as eye candy. Clash of the Titans is castor oil for the eyes and paint thinner for the brain. Upon its release I argued that it may be one of the worst movies ever made, and I’ve yet to hear a cogent argument to the contrary.
- #2. Twelve
I don’t normally pick on Joel Schumacher movies, because you know what? The man’s done some excellent work over the years, usually in the form of smaller-scale dramas like Falling Down and Tigerland. It was that thought I latched on to as I tried to enjoy, and then tolerate, and then merely remain conscious through this awful, boring miasma of pretentious teenage melodrama in which a series of spoiled rich white people apparently have the world’s most harrowing problems. They don’t. It’s almost impossible to relate to this armada of cloying brats unless you share their complete dearth of social context, and the serious-voiced narration by Kiefer Sutherland only strengthens the impression that these terrible people are only significant in their own minds.
- #3. When In Rome
I’m a sucker for a silly romantic comedy, but this particular romantic comedy is for suckers. Kristen Bell stars as a workaholic who learns the value of not being a workaholic because of the power of magic coins in Rome which, when plucked from a fountain, cause their previous owners to fall madly in love with Kristen Bell. I guess shooting in Rome was too expensive, because by blind stupid stinking doo-dah clueless luck all those men (and only men, also by sheer chance) happen to live within walking distance of her apartment half a planet away. Everyone involved in this movie has been charming before and probably will be afterwards, but this bizarre and unfunny concoction of disjointed scenes and hopelessly forced romantic nonsense makes even the great Danny DeVito look bad. Romantic comedies don’t get much worse than this.
- #4. Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex is one of those frustrating movies that feels like it was a slave to studio notes. “Give him superpowers!” “Throw in some comic book panels!” “Why isn’t there a ‘War On Terror’ reference in this movie?!” “Cast Megan Fox! She’s so hot right now!” There’s no reason why Jonah Hex – a DC Comics western antihero whose adventures have ranged from fighting killer nuns to travelling into the distant future – needed to be taken seriously. But as you watch this rambling mess you get the distinct impression that no one – at least, no one with any real authority over the project – took this movie seriously. If you want to make a crazy steampunk western then make that movie. That movie could be great. But don’t just drop one ridiculous idea on top of another until the whole pile collapses into a heap meaningless triviality. That movie sucks. That movie is Jonah Hex.
- #5. The Last Airbender
Bad movie adaptations are a dime a dozen, but one usually gets the impression that the filmmakers at least skimmed the source material. M. Night Shyamalan is apparently above such trivialities, which is pretty ironic since this lazy, boring and just plain stupid adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a fairly convincing argument that nothing is beneath him these days. This inert blockbuster reduces all the characters into cartoonish caricatures, something even the original animated series – still one of the finest television series ever produced – managed to avoid on a weekly basis. Shyamalan even changed the pronunciation of the characters’ names. I guess he thought he knew better. He thought wrong. The Last Airbender wasn’t the worst film of 2010 (not for lack of trying, it seems), but it was by far the most disappointing.
- #6. The Bounty Hunter
You know how some movies are so bad that they’re good? And how some movies go from ‘so bad they’re good’ to just plain ‘bad’ again? Andy Tennant’s The Bounty Hunter reinvents that concept, this time for mediocrity. From ‘so mediocre it’s bad’ to ‘so bad it’s mediocre’ and back again, over and over, this pitiful blend of madcap adventure antics and ‘divorced-couple-that-really-belongs-together’ rom-com somehow makes Tennant’s abysmal Fool’s Gold seem like quality entertainment in comparison. At least that trite treasure-hunting debacle featured some sweet abdominal muscles to distract us from the limp romance, tired jokes and recycled plot. No such luck here. The Bounty Hunter, about a bounty hunter hired to track down his ex-wife, never finds the vindictive glee in its own concept, instead falling back on vignettes so contemptuously familiar that they practically qualify as stock footage. And it’s about as sexy as shots of planes refueling in mid-air: the back-and-forth between professional sexy people Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler clearly represents eroticism, but never once qualifies as an actual turn-on.
- #7. Somewhere
It’s been suggested that writer/director Sofia Coppola, whose previous three films have all been varying degrees of excellent, probably meant Somewhere to represent her childhood in the Coppola family, raised as she was by ‘celebrities’ who were merely human beings grown accustomed to – but never quite comfortable with – the superstar lifestyle. If that were true, you’d think she’d at least have something to say about it. Somewhere is subtle to the point of barely existing, boasting fine performances in service of nothing in particular… certainly not any semblance of plot. Coppola previously mined life’s smaller moments for their innate emotional drama, but Stephen Dorff’s protagonist is so completely disconnected from his own existence that the rest of the film just feels equally inert.
- #8. Survival of the Dead
With The Night of the Living Dead director George Romero invented the great movie monster: zombies. Born not from superstition but from celluloid, these shambling representatives of mankind’s most pathetic qualities have inspired hundreds upon hundreds of excellent creative works spanning movies, television, videogames, books, comics and more. The only person who no longer seems inspired is Romero himself, who with Survival of the Dead seems to be doodling on a Post-It while others are out painting their masterpieces. Odious characters, plot twists that were hackneyed decades ago on “As The World Turns” and uncannily cheap gore effects almost make Survival of the Dead as bad as Diary of the Dead. (Almost.) It’s enough to make you pine for Bruiser 2. No really. I’d rather see George Romero’s Bruiser 2 than have to sit through another half-hearted zombie movie like Survival of the Dead.
- #9. From Paris With Love
What’s that, From Paris With Love? You thought we’d forget all about you because you came out at the beginning of the year? Nice try. This annoying action movie about a ‘realistic’ spy who teams up with the kind of ultraviolent and probably mentally unstable spy you’d only find in the movies never figures out how to make that premise entertaining, instead allowing itself to wallow in John Travolta’s now familiar brand of scene-stealing for 92 minutes of my life that I will never get back, even at gunpoint. Pierre Morel previously directed Taken, that rare action movie that also operated as a rich character piece and a cunning drama. I still maintain that Taken was the Best Film of 2009. From Paris With Love, by comparison and on its own merits, is one of the worst of 2010.
- #10. Giallo
Giallo is a rare movie indeed, in that it somehow makes its point without actually having one. Dario Argento’s latest serial killer thriller, in the rather specific Italian sub-genre of the “giallo,” is as standard as these things get: a serial killer is hunted by a determined sleuth racing against time to save the latest victim. Both the hero and the villain are played by Adrien Brody, a casting decision that threatens to tear down the thin wall between obsessive heroism and obsessive villainy, but the script gets so mired in tired clichés that neither Argento nor the usually-exceptional Brody ever get around to addressing the central theme until the second-to-last scene, in which the heroine yells it out at the top of her lungs like it suddenly matters. You know, if Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called “Suspense,” you can bet he’d either have something to say on the subject or at least work from the most suspenseful script he could possibly find. But Argento, the former master of the giallo genre, turns in yet another a sub-par thriller, made all the worse for its bevy of broken promises and missed opportunities.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order):
Alice in Wonderland, All Good Things, Furry Vengeance, Great Directors, Kick-Ass, The Killers, Marmaduke, Please Remove Your Shoes, The Tempest, Warlords