As Boston Hassle’s resident bad movie connoisseur, 2014 has been an extraordinary year for both good and bad film. Condensing my favorites of 2014 is already a challenge that’s not being made any easier by the fact that I’m still catching up. But when it came to the bad, putting together this list was surprisingly straightforward. I personally believe this list encapsulates everything terrible about 2014’s worst in film from independent, blockbuster, and even the specialty side of the spectrum. So without further ado, here are the worst movies of 2014.
10) Dracula Untold (2014) dir. Andy Cockrum & Gary Shore
The most unnecessary reboot of 2014 was the astonishingly dull 89 minute story of how Dracula was actually a really nice guy and a cool dad who could turn into bats. Dracula Untold managed to be the unexciting action movie equivalent of using cheat codes in a video game, as all dramatic conflicts were resolved by sending bats everywhere. Dracula Untold is devoid of tension, story, or even scares. If the future of Universal monster movies is in half-assed action reboots with tortured protagonists, maybe we should just put a nail in the coffin now.
9) Labor Day (2013) dir. Jason Reitman
Jason Reitman’s first terrible movie of 2014 was a howlingly funny attempt at weepy Oscar bait drenched in desaturation. While Reitman’s strengths as a filmmaker always lied in finding comedy and humanity in unconventional characters, the humor was ditched in favor of a sappy Hallmark card of a romantic drama. This preposterous film tells the story of an escaped convict who turns up to Kate Winslet’s house and helping out before they fall in love.
When you’re a son with a depressed mother, you should hope that an escaped convict with a heart of gold starts hitting on your mom and helping out around the house. On top of this ludicrous premise for a cheesy Oscar baiting drama, Labor Day should forever be remembered for the uproarious erotic pie making scene that deserves a spot in the all time bad movie moment hall of fame. While there were more heinous crimes against cinema in 2014, Labor Day was a well intentioned but laughably bad misstep from a usually great American filmmaker beginning his decline.
9) Wish I Was Here (2014) dir. Zach Braff
With his unbelievably exploitative Kickstarter, Scrubs star Zach Braff gave fans the rare opportunity to pay twice for yet another overly quirky slice of mawkish first world problem cinema. Fans dumb enough to give a guy who got rich off of Scrubs money could help the struggling artist fund his movie that had already been funded. You had the opportunity to put your name on this piece of shit. Did you chip in?
Zach Braff continues his troubling directorial habit of using dramatic cues of indie hits (Holocene anyone?) to to substitute drama for profundity. Braff doesn’t create scenes, he creates feature length tumblr gifs where characters spew sappy, new age wisdom. While it may be an improvement on 2004’s terrible iTunes playlist adaptation GARDEN STATE, it’s still a tone-deaf nightmare in twee. A scene where a character announces they have terminal illness cuts to a scene of a peeing dog moments later for cheap laughs. The film tries to be meaningful in the way it confronts terminal illness and coming to terms with responsibility, but remove the Bon Iver and Instagram greeting card imagery and all you have is an atrocious self-parody of indie cinema with the depth of a terrible 22 minute sitcom stretched to an interminable 106 minutes.
7) Tusk (2014) dir. Kevin Smith
Back when I was a marketing major in college, my professor gave us an amusing anecdote on why smoking pot and doing creative professional work is a bad idea. While watching Kevin Smith’s astoundingly lazy new film, I kept thinking back to that lecture and wondered how much weed Kevin Smith had smoked before thinking this was a good idea for a feature length movie that people should actually spend $10 on. After 60 ambitious if stupid minutes of Human Centipede style body horror about a douchey Podcaster being surgically transformed into a Walrus, Johnny Depp arrives in a “cameo” as a Canadian detective so appallingly unfunny that he takes a shotgun to this movie’s face and hijacks it for the borderline unwatchable in the last third.
The most worrying thing about Tusk is that Kevin Smith actually thinks the humor in this movie is funny. Instead of the dumb but relatively amusing profane pop culture humor in his earlier works, the jokes in Tusk extend to, “Canada is funny, eh.” If you’re on enough drugs to find jokes about poutine, Canadian accents, and stereotypes funny; you may actually like this movie. But for everybody else, Tusk is a terrifying regression from a 90s independent film auteur. Tusk is a movie that could have been a solid 45 minute short film that turns into borderline audience torture.
If we haven’t declared Johnny Depp the Adam Sandler of quirky costume movies yet, Tusk should be the movie that solidifies that claim. If this is the first film in Kevin Smith’s trilogy about Canada complete with Johnny Depp, we could be in for a very rough few years. This movie originated from a joke on a podcast, and it should have stayed that way. If all it took to make this movie was tweeting #WalrusYes, I wish I could have gone back in time and tweeted #WalrusNo.
6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) dir. Jonathan Liebesman
Michael Bay’s first atrocity-by-association this year was his Platinum Dunes produced reboot of the titular pizza loving turtles. Thankfully, he didn’t direct this one, but it’s clear that Platinum Dunes is the go-to film studio for aspiring Michael Bays. This is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Xbox and Mountain Dew era, complete with a dubstep rap song by Wiz Khalifa. The man-in-suit turtles of the early 90s Ninja Turtles movies are now creepily realistic CGI monstrosities. Rafael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo are now creepy CGI turtle-bros who fart, like rap music, say “brah” a lot, and uncomfortably hit on news reporter Megan Fox. Action scenes are given mass destruction, gritty shaky-cam realism, 300 style speed ramping, and of course… explosions.
The end result is a movie for absolutely nobody. It’s far too violent and vulgar for kids who may have enjoyed the 90s movies or the cartoons, but too juvenile and moronic for anybody over the age of 10. Complete with an illogical and lazy screenplay, wooden acting, lots of boring CGI fight scenes you’ve seen in countless other movies, and horrible attempts at “edgy” humor; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is everything you hate about reboots.
5) Transformers: Age Of Extinction (2014) dir. Michael Bay
Oh! Nice to see you again Michael Bay! Michael Bay’s latest orgy of clanging robot destruction was a masturbatorily long 164 minute exercise in headaches and 3D sensory overload. In the latest installment, Mark Wahlberg runs around the world with ethnically stereotyped talking robot cars after “finding a transformah.”
The rest of this gargantuan clusterfuck is an endless montage of skillfully filmed explosions, Mark Wahlberg informing everybody that he is an inventor, atrocious attempts at crude pandering humor, and action scenes that pile on scale but never seem to end. The Transformers films firmly believe that “more is better” while forgetting about the law of diminishing returns.
Trans4mers is epic in scope yet lacking in brain. There’s nothing wrong with making a big dumb movie for 13 year old boys, but there is something wrong with making a movie this torturous. PSAs warn us that taking drugs will turn our minds into mush, but sitting through a Transformers movie may just take a jackhammer to your senses.
4) Hercules (2014) dir. Brett Ratner
Director Brett Ratner is the destroyer of all things fun. What should have been a big stupid blast with a perfectly cast Dwayne Johnson as the titular hero managed to be the most gratingly dull blockbuster of the year. The mercifully brief runtime managed to feel even longer than the 164 minutes of Transformers, and that alone is a cinematic achievement in 2014.
Hercules is so ingrained in the concept of being a “gritty reboot” that it removes everything that could have made it remotely enjoyable. The mythic aspects are cut in favor of being a boring remake of 300. The attempts to pad the extraordinarily thin story are taken out on the audience as we are treated to endless shots of CGI army B-roll. The entire endeavor feels like a rushed product rather than an actual movie made by hard working people.
While Michael Bay’s Transformers movies are undeniably awful, at least you can see the effort on screen. Brett Ratner is the filmmaker equivalent of the guy who plays guitar at parties to get laid. He shows no interest in staging a good looking shot, telling a good story, or even cutting together a logical scene. Watching Hercules gives you the impression of a filmmaker who doesn’t care about anything resembling craft, but would love to let you know he made a couple of movies. Even for a movie I approached with low expectations, Hercules managed to disappoint me by going even lower through the easy route of sheer laziness.
3) Men, Women & Children (2014) dir. Jason Reitman
Jason Reitman is the sole filmmaker in 2014 who managed to get two movies in my worst of the year list. If Labor Day was a misstep from a usually consistent filmmaker, Men, Women & Children was his catastrophe and a cry for help.
Men, Women & Children is a deeply misguided look at the way we live in the smartphone age. It attempts to treat technology with realism, but instead says nothing more than “the Internet makes us sex crazed weirdos and awful people.” And this is a movie that talks about sex online without even getting into Tinder.
Jason Reitman used to humorously explore characters living ethical dilemmas. From the tobacco lobbyist of Thank You For Smoking to the corporate downsizer in Up In The Air or the alcoholic author in Young Adult; Reitman observed rather than judged. With Men, Women & Children, he explores Internet culture with the subtlety of a soccer mom who just found out about 4chan. It attempts to explore everything on the spectrum from sex, Guild Wars, eating disorders, and identity in the digital world in a troubling one sided argument that makes Jason Reitman come off like a paranoid recluse who uses a burner flip phone and lives in the woods in fear of the NSA.
After the brutal critical backlash against Men, Women & Children, Reitman began to claim that the film actually wasn’t about the Internet. I even asked him about it and I have no idea what he’s going for here. If it’s not about the Internet, what the fuck is this movie even about? It’s so heavy handed in it’s usage of technology that it borders in Lifetime movie territory. The characters are so unrealistic and monstrously over the top that it fails as a drama. The statements the movie tries to make on existence have all the profundity of a stoned teenager reading a philosophy textbook. And this entire disaster is intercut with pretentious shots of outer space. Nothing is right about this movie at all.
Men, Women & Children is a movie so detached from reality that it retrospectively makes me fear rewatching Jason Reitman’s stellar pre-2014 filmography. Here’s to hoping 2014 was just a bad year for the otherwise talented filmmaker, but the lowest point in his career is going to be a tough one to recover from. Men, Women & Children is a movie about the iPhone age that already feels outdated in 2015.
2) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) dir. Marc Webb
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is more than a bad superhero movie, it’s the murder of a great character. 2012’s mediocre reboot The Amazing Spider-Man was the story of an awkward teenager with stalker tendencies who got way too many people killed, but definitely got laid at the end. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the story of a guy who loves being Spiderman and occasionally runs into a plot thread or two.
Calling The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a movie is an insult to films that have a plot. It’s a movie that collages scenes where characters disclose important plot points. It’s a pathetic attempt at extended universe building that attempts to ape Marvel not through storytelling but by making an entire movie of dull cliffhangers nobody in their right mind would care about. It’s a movie that doesn’t care about character development, logic, storytelling, or even satisfying its audience. It’s a movie that hopes to satisfy you by checking off things that make a blockbuster successful without actually caring about making something good. It’s a movie that hopes to drown you with enough loud music and colorful special effects that maybe you won’t notice that a turd this large was dropped into multiplexes. It’s a movie so lazily written that bystander scenes are obviously written in to explain why things are happening or have happened. It’s not a movie, but a product. There’s nothing wrong with making movies to make money, but there is something wrong with not giving a shit and charging $15 for the privilege to watch corporate fuckery.
The recent Sony email hacks have exposed a venomously ugly culture of Hollywood being run by suits and executives who would rather write movies with Microsoft Office than allow creatives to do their jobs. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the disgusting embodiment of everything wrong with the current state of corporate driven, committee written filmmaking. It’s a film that begs you to forgive everything bad about Sam Raimi’s overstuffed “franchise-killing” 2007 “disaster” Spiderman 3, because this movie repeats the mistakes and doubles it. It’s a sad waste of talent for everybody involved, and a plea to the powers at Disney/Marvel that maybe they should throw dump trucks of money at Sony Pictures to get the rights back. Spiderman deserves better, but so do paying audiences.
1) God’s Not Dead (2014) dir. Harold Cronk
When it came to the worst movies of 2014, God’s Not Dead went so far and beyond the realms of bad that my top 10 bad movies lists may never be the same.
God’s Not Dead is a staggeringly incompetent piece of religious propaganda. It’s a poorly made and spectacularly disjointed mosaic piece consisting of unnecessary storylines revolving around faith in God. Before you accuse me of bullying a low budget Christian movie, this movie wouldn’t even make it into the Top 10 if it wasn’t for the actual reason it’s here. The genuine shittiness of this movie is nothing compared to its astounding hatefulness.
God’s Not Dead isn’t a movie about regaining faith in religion, it’s a movie about punishing those who refuse to believe in Christianity. The atheist Prius driving “liberal” stereotype blogger is randomly diagnosed with cancer. The offensively stereotyped Muslim teenager who begins to inquire about God is beaten and disowned by her father. The philosophy professor who challenges his student in a debate whether God is dead or not is randomly hit by a car and dies while converting to Jesus. But it’s OK for the family because this is a PG rated movie and it all ends in a 20 minute Christian Rock Concert sequence.
God’s Not Dead is a movie that teaches you many things. Firstly, Jesus can start your car. Secondly, the cast of Duck Dynasty show up to let us all know that they’re good Christians and Jesus is great. Thirdly, Atheists are awful douchebags. Fourthly, people can make pretty swanky looking PowerPoints nowadays. But the most important thing I learned from God’s Not Dead is this clever party trick to get people to accidentally admit they believe in God. Here’s what you should do…
Step 1) Ask somebody if they believe in God. If they say yes, then this exercise is pointless.
Step 2) Wait until they say No. Then ask them, “BUT YOU ACKNOWLEDGED GOD. How can you hate somebody that doesn’t exist?”
Step 3) Keep trolling them about acknowledging God as a thing and corner them into admitting that they acknowledged God. Therefore God is real.
This isn’t a movie interested in religious debate. It’s a twisted PG revenge fantasy against those who choose to disagree with particular values. God’s Not Dead is worse than the worst movie of 2014 or even the decade, it’s the reason foreigners hate America in cinematic form.