This will go down as one of the easiest end of year Worst lists I’ve done yet. It seemed very clear by the time winter rolled in what the most reprehensible movies I saw this year were. Of course, winter always gives us a few unpleasant surprises and there were at least two movies that only came out in December that deserve my traditional scorn for a certain type of terrible, terrible movie.

As always, my list is half a “most disappointing” list and half a “these movies are truly awful shit” list. I think it’s beginning to skew more toward the latter half in recent years. Who knows! I maybe would have included Interstellar otherwise, but noooo. That would just be mean. I’d just be trollin’. So I guess you can sigh with relief that Interstellar will not appear on this list. The real question, of course, is whether it’ll be on my Nice list for 2014. Eh? Eh.

I don’t have much of a preamble this time (obviously), so let’s get on with it. Oh and before I forget, here’s last year’s list!

10. Lucy

LUCY, Scarlett Johansson, 2014. ph: Jessica Forde/©Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

My Review

I’m honor-bound to include this movie because it is total, unrepentant bullshit (which is why I have an ill-advised soft spot for it). Still, Lucy is easily one of the most profoundly dumb movies of 2014 and that deck is very stacked with or without it. I feel like I wouldn’t be so soft on this if the defining feature of 2014 wasn’t how much fun most of its best films were. Lucy can be fun. In many ways, this movie is the antithesis of John Wick, which has substance as well as style and handles itself in a muted way. Lucy is stylized and action-packed, sure, but it’s anything but tightly woven and ultimately feels like a movie that got made just cuz someone could. If Lucy had managed to be competent at a brass tacks level of plot or characterization, it wouldn’t be on this list and I wouldn’t be smiling wistfully at the idea of watching it again. It will have to be alone, though, as no one else has time for that shit.

9. Pompeii

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No review

Stupid sexy Kit Harrington. Pompeii seems like an obvious move for him to make, I guess, but it’s probably got to be one of the most thoughtless movies I remember seeing. They basically stapled the most cookie cutter sword and sandals plot imaginable onto the volcanic eruption at Pompeii. Everything from Gladiator to Spartacus is lazily cribbed here, and none of it connects or coheres into anything the least bit interesting. Even the fights are perfunctory, making Pompeii one of the most egregious wastes of a huge ass budget that I think I’ve ever seen. I didn’t review it because it wasn’t even worth reviewing. Fuck it, I said, save it for for the end year Worst List as it deserves.

8. Divergent

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No Review

It’s almost lazy to include these movies that result as constant attempts to capture Twilight and The Hunger Games magic. Almost. I can’t help myself anyway! Divergent‘s problem is that it’s as shallow as shallow comes. This movie pretends so fucking hard that it’s saying something, but it’s a jumble of nonsense revolving around teenage empowerment entitlement. The world of Divergent is a house of cards cut from the back of cereal boxes. Nothing feels remotely believable, lacking all the stakes, tangibility, and unflinching bleakness of The Hunger Games, which Divergent most resembles. Divergent‘s one redeeming quality is the very cool dream sequences, which are really just a concept ripped off from Ender’s Game (all the way back to the respective books, I imagine).

 7. Dracula Untold

Dracula Untold

No Review

Ah, the first movie of the list that has a pretty cool concept and then just fails to do anything with it. Dracula Untold is the first or second of an ambiguous plan to reintroduce the Universal Monsters as an Avengers style shared universe of dark heroes. Or something. On that level, Dracula Untold fails to register much. The best things in the movie are that it’s mostly gorgeous and occasionally well-acted, especially Tywin Lannister as some vampire living in a cave. Luke Evans seems to be the actor doomed to keep playing shallow, terrible roles as the Big Hero in movies that have zero interest in creating one or more compelling characters. Dracula Untold would not necessarily have been great, but it could have been pretty good if they’d bothered at all to give a shit, and therefore convince the audience to give a shit, about anything that happens in it. That basic element of storytelling is simply lacking here, leaving only shallow beauty and the interesting, if juvenile, take on the Dracula mythos.

6. Hercules

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No Review

Hercules feels like an appropriate companion piece to Dracula Untold in so many ways. The Rock, like Luke Evans, consistently shows up in ambitious movies that are pretty bad because they’re pretty careless. Like Dracula Untold, Hercules only has mileage on its interesting, if juvenile, take on the Hercules mythos. Both of these films feel comic booky in the bad sense, and both are embarrassing misfires that should have been easy wins. Hercules assembles a cool cast, that awesome idea of Hercules tales as a product of unreliable narration, and staples a completely rote plot onto it. There’s no reason to invest in any of these characters, though they are more charming than the empty costumes Dracula Untold was filled with. Most elements of the production, from the plot to the costuming and art design, feels like it was picked out of the same Vaguely Greco-Roman Sword and Sandal Annual Catalog that Pompeii used. If giving a shit is one of the key ingredients in so many of the big winners of 2014, where was it here?

5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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My Review

It looks like The Hobbit has come up in the world… of worst of the year lists! Zing! Honestly, though, while I didn’t find this one as offensive as I found Desolation of Smaug, it is still objectively as bad and probably a little worse given the way it doubles down on the problems of the trilogy (triples down?), forgets much of the pertinent info involved, and then adds new problems along with increasingly unnecessary characters and scenes. Hating on the The Hobbit makes me feel less bad this year, and actually kind of ahead of my time as it seems like the consensus has caught up with me on this. Chalk that up to fatigue more than critical objections, I guess, but the results is results.

4. Into the Woods

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No Review

I’m betting this will be a controversial choice, but so what. Into the Woods was a huge misfire, its only working part being the charm of (some) of its cast. Chris Pine fucking nails it, but the rest is a mix of embarassing (Meryl Streep) to hey, I guess you’re all right (Emily Blunt). I’m not sure how the theatrical production comes off, but in movie form this is just a boring reuse of the the fairy tale mode to say something equally boring. The theme here is basically “be careful what you wish for, assholes” and sure, okay. I even respect some of the deconstruction going on toward the end, which comes way too late, when they start talking about how the stories we tell our children affect who they become and maybe these wish-fulfilled, self-absorbed jerks in fairy tales are not who we should be telling our kids about. Fair enough! But if you want to create a subservise or deconstructive model of these stories and their effects, why is half the movie retelling them while overall, all the characterization is coasting by on our familiarity with the attendant tropes and figures? Yeah, I know the story of Red Riding Hood pretty well and I appreciate the cursory acknowledgement of that which we do get. But please, make the fairy tale figure an actual character, eh? Sadly, there are no characters in Into the Woods. Moreover, I can’t believe how retrograde its treatment of women is. All the female characters have shitty, vain, selfish, or reprehensible motivations.The one character who just wants to be a partner to her husband cheats on him first chance she gets and then falls off a cliff. It’s baffling.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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No Review

If Hercules and Pompeii drew from the same boring sword and sandal catalog, then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles draws from the more fundamental collection of bullshit tropes and lazy hacks that have ruined too many big genre films. Everything from magic blood to a retconned origin story to make everything more “personal” is present here, and that would be fine if there was anything rising out of it. This movie has nothing going for it. It’s no fun, it’s not smart, and it’s got exactly one passable attempt at raising the ornery, embarrassed ghost of its source material. The elevator scene is the one everybody who is unfortunate enough to endure this movie remembers. That’s because it’s the only thing here that feels like anything, that connects anywhere, that transcends the preposterousness that stains every frame of this movie (hey, snowy mountains in sight of New York City!) from concept to execution. This movie is embarrassing for all involved, especially the audience. This movie is so the opposite of fun that it sucks the fun out of you until you become angry that movies like this even get made.

2. Transformers 4

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My Review

Speaking of fun… The only 2014 movie worse for our souls and the impressionable spirits of our children than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is fucking Transformers 4. If nothing else, Transformers 4 is pretty fascinating and by far one of the most interesting films on this list. Its context makes it a work of import, a reflection of the insane world we live in and the insane collection of values and obligations that makes this the highest grossing movie of what, all fucking time? I mean, I paid money to see this and I don’t even regret it. I think I’m defeated at this point, unable to fully grasp the phenomenon of this movie’s existence, of the road from there (the more or less all right Transformers) to here. I’m just an observer now, adrift on the tide of humanity that finds it in itself to applaud for this racist, aimless, misogynist, intelligence-insulting, and ultimately soullessly commercial enterprise. But at least it’s fascinating. Right? Right? Guys… right?

1. Transcendence

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No Review

This movie defines missed opportunity, but that’s not where my derision for it truly stems from. It also defines embarrassing mess. The core premise is potent, and rarely explored in mainstream entertainment. But the film does nothing with it. The plot is formless, meandering, and ultimately so small in scale that all the drama is just hot air filling a commercialized balloon with nothing at all to say. None of the actors, all greats, can give a satisfying performance here as they are stripped from believable motivations, forced to spout ludicrous technobabble and/or laughable Big Ideas often in the same scenes, etc. There’s no intellectual thread in Transcendence. It’s all about how technology and science are bad, mmmk? Transcendence is therefore a con: it tries to pass itself off as a slick, sophisticated, and idea-laden technothriller and winds up a puffed up and poorly executed episode of The Outer Limits.

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Well, that’s the worst list. Stay tuned for the Top 15 Films of 2014!

Special mention, by the way, should go to Tusk which is probably one of the most annoying movies ever made. I couldn’t convince myself to include it here, however, due to the fact that it’s not really a movie. Tusk is a prank on pretty much everybody, and I sort of have to respect Kevin Smith for it. If there was a genuine bone in Tusk‘s hideous body, I may have included it on this list because it is truly fucking abhorrent. But I mean, I think I got the joke and it would be disingenuous to call it one of the worst movies of 2014 when it was designed to be that. Right?

Tommy, what do you think?

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Until next year, Mark!

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