Our Ten’s List
Starring at all of the leftovers from Thanksgiving in my fridge got me thinking about film turkeys: Movies almost universally reviled as complete and utter trash. We’ve been unfortunate enough this year to watch some of the biggest box office flops ever, with recent films such as Victor Frankenstein (which achieved the worst wide release weekend of all time last week) and Jem and the Holograms (which was yanked after a truly, truly embarrassing two weeks of lackluster sales.) Money is one indication of a film’s merits…but hardly a very sporting one. Pretty much any movie paired against a dominant blockbuster such as The Avengers: Age of Ultron or Star Wars is going to take a beating at the box, even if it’s the Citizen Kane of our generation in hindsight.
To counteract this largely arbitrary measurement, I’ve decided to substitute my own completely arbitrary metric. All of these movies I consider to be completely without merit, so bad that they are just completely painful to watch from start to finish (who knew that one decent fight per film would be enough to keep the Star Wars prequels completely off of this list?) I will, however, restrict my list to movies in my lifetime, so if it’s been on MST3K it’s probably not going to be here, sorry fans of Ed Wood. I will also factor in only wide-release movies, because straight to video is a barren hellscape nobody should tread lightly through. Here, in order, are my picks for the worst cinematic catastrophes to ever waddle into a theater and attempt to gobble your movie-going budget!
Biggest Film Turkeys!
10. Jaws The Revenge (1987)
When this movie came out, I was eight years old…and I already knew that this version of Jaws was complete and utter crap. Rose-tinted glasses may incline one to believe that any project starring Michael Caine had to have some solid moments, but that is unfortunately false. This film is glacially plotted and has the tension of a senior’s bingo night where half of the numbered balls are missing. The shark is hardly seen outside of flashbacks to better moments from the first two films, which is also about the only place this pacifist great white manages a kill. No scares, no thrills, no sheriff and no point, this film carelessly plundered any goodwill for the franchise audiences may have been saving, even what meager amounts survived Jaws 3-D!
9. Battlefield Earth (2000)
John Travolta decided to squander his come-back glory by making an ill advised cinematic sales pitch for his crazy-pants religion by adapting the mythology created by consummate con-artist and all around asshole L. Ron Hubbard. The result was Battlefield Earth. Caked in awful prosthetic make-up, dressed in a botched Halloween costume, and sporting a ridiculous accent, Travolta hammed his way through this disaster of a disaster film. Its plot is such a convoluted mess, it’s a wonder anybody managed to string a religious movement out of these fever dreams, let alone committed to putting them down on celluloid for others to watch.
8. Bowfinger (1999)
By the end of the 90’s we were all really hoping that Eddie Murphy was getting his shit together and finally getting back to making decent comedies. Sure, his Nutty Professor film series managed to enshrine “black funny man plus fat suit and fart jokes” as a time-honored tradition of comedians circling the creativity crapper, but Dr. Doolittle was charming, and Metro was a decent spiritual successor to his Beverly Hills Cop films. But Eddie was not content to make innocuous remakes that played well to young audiences. He decided to tweak Hollywood’s nose by rubbing audience noses in all of the squalid sausage making that goes into making a film, especially the shady business practices. It was every bit as boring and self-centered as that premise sounds. He even managed to drag Steve Martin through this exercise in puerile gossip, which is almost a bigger sin than making The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
7. Rocky V (1990)
Rocky has had a renaissance of late, with Rocky Balboa and Creed both being a remarkable return to form for the series. Many may not recall the horrible sequel that put the Italian Stallion in traction in the first place. Much like Creed, Rocky stars as a trainer instead of a fighter here, trying to take a brash young brawler named Tommy Gunn from the small time to the championship. Unfortunately, he’s undercut at every turn by a shady promoter based on Don King, his skeezy brother-in-law Paulie, and the widening gap between himself and his young son. Oh, and the plot to the this film. A listless and perfunctory set-up fails to catch any of the over-heated glory of the ring, as Tommy Gunn is a terrible stand-in for Sylvester Stallone. When the film finally catches on to all of the snoring coming from the audience, it goes for broke by finishing with a cartoonish street fight between Tommy and Rocky, which feels more like the final brawl sequence of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles than the slug fests we expect from a Rocky movie.
6. That’s My Boy (2012)
Adam Sandler movie. You know the drill. This film took all of Sandler’s favorite foibles (gross-out humor, mismatched families, man-baby protagonists, complete lack of pacing or humor) and crammed them into one crap-sandwich, heavy on the cheese. A middle-finger to anyone hoping Sandler would finally make something new or funny, this film also managed to destroy Andy Samberg’s film career…on his first film out. That’s harsh.
5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Now we’re getting into the good stuff: movies so inexplicably bad you wonder what secret spell of awfulness was cast to actually rip these projects out of whatever circle in hell they inhabited and foist them upon innocent cinema-goers.
This film is based on a little known but critically well received comic series by the noted comic creator (and Rasputin body double) Alan Moore, who also penned the comics V for Vendetta and Watchmen. That is about the only positive statement I can make about this film. It strays wildly from the source, but as nobody much read that series, that’s not a major gripe. The film is a weird pastiche of Victorian era supernatural characters, such as Mina Harker from Dracula, Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, the invisible man and for no real reason, Tom Sawyer. Instead of playing the monsters and misanthropes they were in literature, they are instead formed into a super-hero team under Sean Connery‘s character of Allan Quatermain, a Bond-precursor and big game hunter. So a team of murderers and perverts under the auspices of a retro-version of the guy who killed Cecil the Lion. And Tom Sawyer. Great. They team together despite being, well, villains, and defeat an even bigger threat to the humanity they regularly plague.
So the story is silly as hell. Action movies have done more with less. Well, this film does even less with less. The action is mostly CG tomfoolery, the sweeping visuals are mostly green screen, and the stars themselves are really not up to the whole action hero thing. This is Sean Connery’s last film, and for good reason. He looks like he’s fighting off a case of angina the whole film. This film decided to stake many of it’s actors’ careers through the heart, and despite turning a decent profit, it was critical rat poison. There’s talk of rebooting this franchise, and if that ever happens I’m grabbing my garlic and cross and heading to whichever studio tries to revisit this unholy nightmare upon humanity.
4. Van Helsing (2004)
Oh Good, another unholy nightmare of a film. Hot off playing…well…Wolverine, Hugh Jackman attempts to branch out by playing the legendary ghoul hunter, Van Helsing. The studio was obviously trying to resurrect the frights and fun of the Universal movie monster franchises, and peppers this film with their big hitters, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Werewolf. Unfortunately, they are all CG implemented and look like a garbage fire. They also are vamping the hell out of their performances like an eight year-old throwing a table cloth over their shoulders and trying to impersonate Bella Legosi. Hugh Jackman seems carved out of wood, by comparison, since he clearly thought they were making a respectable action flick instead of a schlocky B-movie homage. The story is a complete trainwreck, messily welding together iconic bits from each monsters lore into a gruesome assemblage of parts that lightning never strikes into animation. It is a mess from start to finish, and unfortunately furthered the bastardization of literary figures that would lead to horrors such as Hansel and Gretel.
3. Blade: Trilogy (1998-2004)
This is an accursed cautionary tale of how bad Marvel properties can be when they don’t have complete control. Before the current halceon days of Marvel flicks, abominations like this roamed the country side. The Punisher. Daredevil and Elektra. The Punisher some more. Ghostrider. The Punisher, yet again. Howard the Duck! But the worst of the worst was Blade, a minor character from the Spiderman universe, played with all of the class and charm of a cinder block by Wesley Snipes.
I’m lumping all of these films together because they somehow managed to become worse each time. The story of a half-human, half-vampire slayer is nothing new, but Snipes imbued his character with zero charm and a questionable understanding of bad-ass one-liners. In the first film, Blade must confront his eternal enemies as they attempt to gain a mystical power that will allow them to walk during the day…and Stephen Dorf as the most miscast villain since Charlie Chaplin played Hitler. A convoluted mess of myth making leads to a supreme baddie who has none of his promised strengths and more than a normal vampires’ amount of weaknesses. Wow, way to build tension by letting Snipes beat the hell out of a pretty boy vampire with no hope of ever winning! With the stakes dirt low they totally rewrite the mythology at the last minute, making it so Blade does not have to give up his powers. Cop-outs are the only plot device in this film.
The second film, by Guillermo del Toro, has a mutant vampire hunting both Blade and his completely nerfed vampire foes. The story is simple, in order to make for a metric-fuck-ton of lame CGI and fight scenes liberally stolen from Monday Night Raw. Seriously, if I never see another computer animated Wesley Snipes body slam a vampire, it will be too soon. Once again, Blade wins by completely ignoring the big bad’s vaunted invincibility and kills it like a normal damn vampire.
Finally, Blade Trinity. While this film does benefit from the snarky presence of Ryan Reynolds, it doesn’t benefit from the complete absence of its star, Snipes, who was so stoned and paranoid that he refused to even appear on camera for most scenes. They had to loop footage from other films and earlier scenes just to finish the damn thing. The plot is a complete wash, since after having a Vampire God and a Vampire Mutant, just fighting vampires is pretty much asinine this time out. Its a complete phone-in, from the star and from the studio.
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
How to choose the worst Transformers film? They are all complete wastes of celluloid, but I give the first one a pass because nobody knew any better. At the very least, it was something new…something mindbogglingly awful and cynical, but new at least. The third film was just a tired and listless retread of the first films, so by that point we had only ourselves to blame for supporting these atrocities. The reboot doesn’t exist, because if it did my mind would implode under the weight of how awful the series has become. So that leaves the second film, Revenge of the Fallen. I argue, for reasons intrinsic and extrinsic to the film, it is the worst Transformers film ever made. Until they make the next one.
The film opens with the most crass and tone-def “off to college” montage ever assembled. Sam (legendary film monster, Shia LaBeouf) leaves the nest to engage in the silliest pastiche of a National Lampoon’s movie ever made. It is so tin-eared, you have to believe that nobody attached to this film, cast or crew, ever attended a college party in their short miserable lives. From their, it quickly devolves into insanity, as Shia finds himself the host to secrete Autobot wisdom from his use of the cube in the first film, and must battle credulity to save humanity from killer robots.
The story is pedestrian. The pacing is murderous, with long periods of boredom cut by nonsensical violence and sudden plot skips. The visuals are the same shiny and empty spectacle the series has never ever bothered to update. Director/Asshat Michael Bay reuses the same tired stunt sequences over and over and over, from film to film. The acting is a goddamn nightmare…though not quite the complete farce it becomes when you have John Turturro and John Malkovich rolling around on the ground and playing tickle-tag in the third film. This film showed that the franchise was going to take no risks, add no new elements, double down on terrible scripts and awful acting, and still make billions of dollars. This film is the first angel of the apocalypse, and nobody heeded when it started blowing its trumpet like a cavalry bugle boy high on PCP.
1. The Avengers 1998
Fuck. This. Movie.
This is hands down the worst movie I have ever seen. It is also the only film ever to cause me to walk out of the theater. Based on a pretentious spy drama from the UK, it stars Ralph Fiennes as a prig and elitist spy, Sean Connery as a sputtering sexist villain and apparent stroke survivor, and Uma Thurman as a spy whose gimmick is being a piece of meat who casts “come fuck me” eyes at the camera with all of the charm of a washed-up Vegas stripper. None of the characters are likable, none are cool or competent, and none seem pleased to be on set or in the same room as each other.
The story is farely Bond-esque, with Connery’s horribly named Sir August de Wynter attempting to extort the leaders of the world, you guessed it, by causing global
wynter winter, and super spies Emma Peel (Thurman) and John Steed (Fiennes) attempting to thwart him by wearing very very nice clothing in his vicinity. That is literally the whole film. When they tagged this film “saving the world, in style!” they literally spoiled the plot. These clowns have no powers or great gadgets, just bowler hats, canes and extremely flattering tailored suits.
The film is boring, has no charm or charisma, is sexist and perverse, and is so silly that Roger Moore wouldn’t touch this caper with a ten-foot cane. It was a chore to watch, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Connery has a teleconference with his evil organization…and they are all dressed up in psychedelic plush bear costumes, a’la the Grateful Dead. You can make a shitty movie if you want, but don’t turn around and try to wave your dick in my face, proclaiming you don’t give a shit about my enjoyment since you already have my money. You sir, are an ass, and I hope that you are tormented in hell by sharp dressed devils and the putrid corpse of that fat drug addict Jerry Garcia as he eats his shitty Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in your face!
Fuck you. Good night!
The Giblet Prize: Everything Uwe Boll Has Ever, and Will Ever, Produce
This hack has the same plot every time: idiots who coincidentally share a name with video game characters he has never bothered to research wave shoddy plastic weapons at each other until somebody has their tits fall out, and then a fountain of fake blood covers the whole audience in shame. That any of his films have ever had a wide release is a crime against film. That I’ve watched about 5 of those is something I’m going to have to desperately plea bargain with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates about, I’m sure. Writing this list may be called into account as a material witness, so I’m including this bonus category in hopes of shaving a few millennia off of my purgatory time.