Focus of New York Magazine’s Movie Critic Frank Ochieng’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2013
Top 10 Worst Films of 2013 from Focus of New York Magazine’s Movie Critic Frank Ochieng
Well FOCUS readers…another movie season has come and gone. However, the year of 2013 had quite a few forgettable duds to consider at your local movie theaters. Unfortunately, moviegoers had to embrace some of these infuriating big screen offerings with unexpected boredom. Thus, I want to offer my distinctive selections for what I deemed the cinematic “bottom of the barrel” for 2013. Despite some cynicism that exists with a selected element of less-than-appetizing cinema, film fans do have a certain responsibility for productively seeking out quality films that reflect a sense of adventure, imagination, poignancy and self-awareness.
So now in alphabetical order I’ll present what I consider the Top Ten Best Worst Films of 2013. Let’s relive the movie mundane, shall we? The following numbing selections are presented in alphabetical order:
AFTER EARTH: The practice of nepotism in Hollywood-as in other areas of industry-can be a mixed bag of sorts. On one hand, who would not want to take advantage of a handmade opportunity and seize the golden moment for loved ones if given the chance? On the other hand, favoring your own party for a perfunctory-driven project may end up doing more harm than good in some cases. The proof, as they say, is almost in the pudding. In filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s slight and scattershot sci-fi spectacle After Earth, one-time box office bad boy Will Smith is given the green light to deliver a fantasy-driven vanity vehicle for himself as well as his chip-off-the-old block offspring Jaden in a derivative futuristic yarn about father-son bonding, survival and sacrifice.
THE CALL: Filmmaker Brad Anderson’s woefully generic psychological thriller The Call is about as monotonous as a continual dial tone. The making of a legitimate tension-filled suspense piece was there for the taking: the stressful atmosphere of an emergency 911 call center and the desperate souls that call it in the wake of various imminent dangerous circumstances. Clearly the movie’s blueprint warrants the high anxieties expected to serve as the basis for the fear-churning fodder. However, The Call is nothing more than a mere disconnection of false jolts and jumps. In The Call, Oscar-winner Halle Berry phones in her role (no pun intended) as a Los Angeles-based 911 operator named Jordan who has had previous angst-ridden baggage dealing with the guilt of a murdered young woman due to her costly on-the-job error.
CARRIE: It is certainly asking a lot to buy into the shoddy remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 macabre masterpiece Carrie, but there is no real crime in having director Kimberly Peirce’s (“Boys Don’t Cry”, “Stop-Loss”) updated installment co-existing with the memory of yesteryear’s classic freak show. Or maybe there is reason for applying the handcuffs to Peirce’s decision to deliver a flat and flavorless rendition of Stephen King’s timeless creepfest? Naturally Peirce is not the only filmmaker guilty of trying to rehash and repackage a vintage goose-bump gem and apply it to the contemporary slash-and-dash genre so instrumental in today’s cynical cinema.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP: Whatever is your political preference or ideology at hand, The Company You Keep basically stumbles as a saggy and unambitious reactionary drama that glosses over the sins of yesteryear-for both anti-war activists and governmental conservative watch dogs alike. Redford settles for the formulaic “misunderstood-man-on-the-lam” premise in the name of lingering political prosecution but the film never fully embraces the underlying cynicism of the big picture pertaining to sixties disillusionment and distrust. Company staggers about a conscientious crowd of baby boomer cynics and the paranoia that exists for their psychological stances. Unfortunately, Redford’s narrative is a perfunctory platform that misses the golden opportunity to point the fingers sternly at the Vietnam-era madness or the unethical and unfinished business of those turbulent times.
DELIVERY MAN: However, if the intentional baby-maker was a middle-aged moron saddled in a typical Vince Vaughn vehicle where recycled cheesy laughs and synthetic sentimentality awkwardly mix like cheese doodles and champagne then does the so-called joke get lost in translation? It does when it is writer-director Ken Scott’s woefully flaccid farce Delivery Man with the clunky Vaughn in the lead as an underachiever in life who evidently overachieved in the sperm donation department. Delivery Man stumbles, bumbles and tumbles with Vaughn in the familiar role as the contrived cad that needs to grow up. No doubt that Vaughn feels comfortable in throwaway impish comedies but his roguish shtick feels rather tired and lame in the lackluster laugher Delivery Man.
GI JOE: RETALIATION: Okay…so one realizes that the acquired taste for the turgid testosterone-driven G.I. Joe: Retaliationis not quite sophisticated for the cash crowd on Wall Street. In actuality, it may be deemed intellectually inferior to the impressionable minds in the kiddie-coated neighborhood at Sesame Street. Be that as it may, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is back with sordid over-the-top action spruced up in arbitrary 3-D effects, dimwitted dialogue, firearm-toting hard body hotheads and all the assorted explosions that register a pretty colorful BOOM in repeated flagrant fashion. Right now there must be a global rejoicing of 8-year old fanboys celebrating the release of this banal boisterous blockbuster. Director Jon M. Chu (“Step Up 2: The Streets”) points his baseless big guns at the continued exploits of the showy shenanigans involving the determined elite military strike force known as the G.I. Joes.
THE HOST: The true queen of teen torture and angst, novelist Stephanie Meyer, shows how to milk a mawkish melodrama while tapping into the cinematic psyche of adventurous adolescents everywhere. Clearly, Meyer has a proven track record of stroking the teeny-bopper tendencies in romanticism courtesy of her Twilight phenomenon that has defined sensual cinema for young love-stricken lasses everywhere. In the syrupy teen body-switching sci-fi fantasy The Host, Meyer once again delivers the sugary surrealism that made her aforementioned Twilight sagas the gospel according to teen disillusionment. Based on Meyer’s 2008 book, The Host tells the tale of another strikingly pretty heroine Melanie Stryder (played by gifted Irish actress Saoirse Ronan from “Atonement” and “The Lovely Bones”) whose futuristic world is topsy-turvy while being riddled with alien souls and the tampering of humanity.
IDENTITY THIEF: It is tough imagining how the kinetic and cockeyed comedy Identity Thief missed so many opportunities in churning out a legitimate outlandish flick about the outrageousness of scamming artists and their unsuspecting hapless victims. The possibilities for high-minded laughs were endless and the craziness involved could have been riotously inspired. So what happened with the end results of director Seth Gordon’s (“Horrible Bosses”) vapid on-the-road trip farce? In a nutshell, Identity Thief should have stolen some fresh-minded slapstick instead of wrapping its insipid zany heart around some hyperactive hogwash that wastes the comedic timing of likable leads Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. Overwrought with frenetic feeble-minded shtick, over-indulgent cartoonish violence and recycled aimless wackiness, Identity Thief hopelessly strains itself in an effort to convey the pulse of an over-the-top roadside romp.
THE LORDS OF SALEM: Heavy metal-hedonist-turned-horrormeister Rob Zombie’s bombastic B-movie schlock The Lords of Salem is not what one would call a crowning achievement in the flaccid filmography of the macabre moviemaker. In the twisted tradition of Zombie’s deranged ditties such as House of 1,000 Corpses,The Devil’s Rejects and of couple of throwaway thrills in his Halloween installments, The Lords of Salem is a faceless freak show that never capitalizes on its intended grungy appeal. Morosely labored and laughable, The Lords of Salem is an eyesore of a chiller that fails to generate any stimulating sense of perverse purpose other than to resemble a devilishly disjointed spectacle littered with atrocious acting, junkyard imagery, disposable dialogue, aimless direction, and meager special effects. Muddled with mumbo-jumbo mayhem, The Lords of Salem resembles some sort of haphazard creepfest without genuine haunting vibes.
6 SOULS: The muddled macabre melodrama 6 Souls has undergone two movie title changes (it was formerly known as Shelter back in 2009) yet the preposterous theme has to do with multiple personalities of a disturbed mental patient. The fact that this hackneyed horror show has been sitting on the shelf for a few years clearly demonstrates what its decision-making profile suggests in whether it is a disjointed Johnny-come-lately psychological thriller from yesteryear or a refreshed but rancid rabble-rousing freak feature that inexplicably managed to score a respectable cast of capable players along for a perfunctory joyride. Okay, let us just say that both wayward instances aptly apply. Co-directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (“Underworld”) oversee this supercilious supernatural sludge that tackles every conventional and clichéd gimmick from maddening identity crisis to manufactured occult-oriented conflict.
TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR: In the overwrought dramedy Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Perry conjures up a muddled and mawkish melodrama about the perils of infidelity as the gradual disillusionment of an up-and-coming professional couple’s marriage starts to crack at the emotional center. Perry tries to pour on the decadence (with the film’s curious PG-13 rating no doubt) with the lavish display of ridiculously gorgeous players, a so-called steamy subject matter and its dire consequences and the uneven slapdish of broad comedy and twists in the final act to soften the preachy platitudes of the film’s cautionary message. Nevertheless, Temptation’s flamboyance is slight, sporadic and sloppy. In short, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a long-winded and lackluster big screen soap opera that feels dismissively punchy and pointless. Even Perry’s gimmicky inclusion of the ubiquitous reality TV star and media maiden Kim Kardashian smells of desperation in an attempt to make Temptation…er, tempting!