Sunday, February 16, 2014


For Part Three of the Savage Scorecard series, it is time for the gloves to come off for just one final time against the films I loathed in 2013.

As I have stated in the past, 2013 was not the greatest year for movies and definitely took a stumble when compared to the excellence spread throughout 2012. While I am not entirely certain, I think this is the first year since the inception of Savage Cinema where I actually have ten full films, or at least this is the first time I am arranging them in this fashion, with #10 existing as the weakest offender to #1 obviously being the worst film of the year. Let's get started so I don't have to think about these movies anymore,, shall we?

10. "MAN OF STEEL" (the final third) Directed by Zack Snyder
Now, I have to explain this one as I did award this film three stars and I still stand by that assessment. As difficult it is to imagine a new film version of "Superman," especially as the first two installments that starred Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder are so iconic but I do think that the first two thirds of Producer Christopher Nolan and Director Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel" took bold and brave risks ensuring that their film could stand on its own feet and out of the massive Christopher Reeve shadow. I did love how the film was a gritty, episodic, non-linear version of the origin story and peppered it with some equally risky and overt religious allegory as we were witnessing the journey not of Superman or even Clark Kent, but of the the alien Kal-El (played by Henry Cavill), all elements that made "Man Of Steel" darkly riveting to view.

But then, we get to what ultimately upended the film and that was the gargantuan and endless bludgeoning that was the film's entire final third, the war between Kal-El and General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his minions. This final third undid everything that would have otherwise made "Man O Steel" quite possibly one of the finest films of the year as it completely descended into a quagmire of the same old overdone CGI maelstrom in a fashion that was as dishearteningly exhausting as it was ugly to regard. Just a barrage of explosions, falling buildings, people screaming and cataclysm beyond cataclysm all leading to the moment where Snyder's heavy hand played with the core mythology of Superman so disturbingly cavalier that it defiled the exact nature of who Superman actually is and what he will and will not do (if you have seen the film, then you know exactly what I am writing about). So even though my three star rating essentially split the difference between the good and bad elements of the film, it was indeed that final third that left such an awful taste in my mouth and has also stopped me from even desiring to see this film again...ever.
(Originally reviewed June 2013)

9. "OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" Directed by Sam Raimi
This film was another case of CGI effects gone amok and all utilized in a fashion that created no sense of awe, wonder, terror, mystification, joy or any other emotion other than a two hour extended yawn. And if you are bothering to take audiences on a journey to the land of Oz and not give us an experience that feels like our very own dreams and nightmares have been magically projected upon the silver screen, then why bother? Director Sam Raimi gave us a soulless, passionless, emotionless presentation led by a completely miscast James Franco who looked as if he were mocking the entire proceedings with hipster irony from one end to the other. Yes, following in the iconic footsteps of "The Wizard Of Oz" (1939) is a daunting and some would say impossible feat to be sure. But if you are going to take this one, did it have to be so flat, generic, and empty?
(Originally reviewed March 2013)

8. "IN A WORLD..." Directed by Lake Bell
For actress Lake Bell's Writing and Directorial debut feature, I do believe that she has the filmmaking goods to make a fine film and I am more than anxious to see what she will devise for her second time at bat. She obviously has a lot to say but if only she would just say them. "In A World..." finds Bell (who also stars) as a voice over performer in the male dominated field, especially for narrating motion picture trailers, who finds herself competing against her legendary Father (played very unctuously by Fred Melamed ) for a coveted new mega-budgeted feature. While Bell shows she has a gift for sharp Hollywood insider satire, a compelling Father/daughter dynamic as well as some seriously pointed barbs against 21st century women who speak in that high-pitched, pseudo sexual squeak that diminishes any chances of being taken seriously in any industry, Bell nearly jettisons ALL of those elements for severely extended and torpidly paced romantic comedy cliches that really have nothing to do with she claims her film to be about. This was truly a wasted opportunity, but better luck next time.
(Originally reviewed September 2013)

7. "ADMISSION" Directed by Paul Weitz
Tina Fey knows better!!!! I just know that she knows better than to align herself with characters and films that are so obviously beneath her comedic and satiric brilliance, intelligence and imagination and yet she keeps doing it again and again with her film roles, and "Admission" is just the latest dull dud to darken her, but mostly our, doorsteps. With this film, Fey portrays a Princeton Admissions Officer who is confronted with a most painful decision from her past which then forces her to face down her present and potential future, in regards to her career and closest relationships with her long term boyfriend, feminist Mother (Lily Tomlin) and a possible new love interest (Paul Rudd). All of this would be just well and good if the film at any point decided to truly explore these characters as human beings and their situations with the spark, wit, flash and that sharply unpredictable quality that had endeared us to Tina Fey in the first place. But no. Let's just pad the film with tired, canned and contrived situations that sail right down the middle of the cinematic road making for a film that is sadly and regrettably boring, toothless, bloodless and cliched. "Admission" is the very type of film that Tina Fey would parody rather than star in and it is so forgettable that it is not worth your time at all, and barely worth the time for me to pound upon it once again.
(Originally reviewed October 2013)

6. "MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" Directed by Dan Scanlon
I have been beating up on the steeply declining quality of the animated films from Pixar for a few years now and the prequel "Monsters University" was not the film to return Pixar to my good graces in the least. Yes, it is visually sumptuous but visual splendor alone is not what made all of us respond to the films of Pixar in the first place and it is definitely not what has made those films endure. I guess witnessing our beloved monsters Mike Wazowski (still winningly voiced by Billy Crystal) and James "Sully" Sulivan (John Goodman) during their college years is a clever idea but why bog them down in a morass of cliched and totally recycled jokes from every campus comedy you have ever seen? It's just so, so sad because the filmmakers of Pixar were once true artists as far as I am concerned. These were people that somehow and always found that bridge and balance between art and commerce by consistently making films that were daring, unpredictable, risky and at times decidedly and unapologetically not geared towards children. These were films for the ages that challenged as well as entertained as they are classics to be viewed over and again. But now, and at a time when Pixar has absolutely no need whatsoever to chase the dollar, that is exactly what they have succumbed to doing by creating one unimaginative film after another that feels designed to sell lunch boxes, toys and all other promotional material rather than exist as a great piece of art. Let's face it, I am quite certain that 10 years from now, you will all still be watching the original and outstanding "Monsters, Inc." (2001). Conversely, in 10 years, I would be hard pressed to believe that any of you will be anxious to view this completely subpar, shamelessly money grabbing follow up.
(Originally reviewed July 2013)  

5. "FRANCES HA" Directed by Noah Baumbach
And now we are getting down to the nitty gritty as you truly have no idea of how much I HATED, HATED, HATED this film!! I don't care how many critical accolades it received (and there were many). I do not care how many Ten Best lists the film arrived upon (there are quite a few). But for me, Noah Baumbach's latest film was precisely the type of film that would make people resistant to independent cinema resist it all the more and for those of us that do love independent films as I do, it was just an embarrassment as if suffered from the very qualities that damage independent films and sometimes make me want to hate them as well. "Frances Ha" told the story of a wayward twenty-something trying to find herself in New York City in the most superficial, plastic, erroneous, smug and self-congratulatory fashion as it wore its French New Wave/Francois Truffaut/Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (1979) influences and hipster attitude upon its cinematic sleeves with such a supreme sense of ironic superiority that would have been flat out insulting if it weren't so painfully obvious, cloying and prefabricated. Worst of all was the insufferable, irritating and self-consciously "adorable" leading performance of Greta Gerwig, who is not nearly as charming or nearly as ingratiating as she and Baumbach possibly think she is. The whole film felt to be placed inside a set of quotation marks, thus making for a film that never felt authentic or emotionally true and could only pretend to be about its subject matter rather than fully realize it.
(Originally reviewed June 2013)

4. "A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD" Directed by John Moore
For a film series that really should have ended with the first and best installment, the original 1988 "Die Hard," I have to say that I have been surprised with the durability of the series starring Bruce Willis as the endlessly intrepid Detective John McLaine. Despite some flaws here and there, the subsequent three follow up films have just gotten the job done through well thought out predicaments to place McLaine into and sequenced with inventive, imaginative action sequences that even at their wildest, are somehow grounded with Willis' salt-of-the-Earth presence, physicality and well timed quips. But for this improbable fifth installment, the series hits rock bottom and perhaps even underneath that level with a film so stupid, nonsensical and just completely defiant in its belief that if it just keeps hurling explosions and gunfire at you, the movie will just inherently get better. Trust me, dear readers, it never even approaches "watchable." Beyond that, Bruce Willis has shown once again that he is one of our laziest and most mercenary of actors as "A Good Day To Die Hard" shows explicitly that he is just so willing to sell out his signature character for his $20 million paycheck. My God!! Willis does absolutely NOTHING in this film but utter variations of "I'm on vacation!!!" which doesn't make the least bit of sense as John McLaine is not travelling to Russia for a vacation but purely to rescue his son. And yet that is simply the tip of the iceberg of problems this film has. I am sorry, for a film that exists with the pedigree that "Die Hard" happens to have, it is just INEXCUSABLE to make a movie this powerfully inept and sloppy. A blank screen with no sound is more compelling.
(Originally reviewed February 2013)  

3. "OBLIVION" Directed by Joseph Kosinski
This film really pissed me off! Tom Cruise stars in a would-be science fiction epic in which he is essentially the last man on Earth trapped in a story that completely steals from practically every science fiction film that you have seen over the last 45 years and tries to pass itself off as new. It just made me so angry that Director Joseph Kosinski didn't even bother to try and make his obvious influences merge into something unique and like a kid who just copies his homework off of the smarter classmate, "Oblivion" is ultimately a film that is (again) inexcusably disingenuous, unimaginative, unoriginal and flat out lazy. Trust me, do not waste your time as this fiasco is nothing more than cinematic plagiarism.
(Originally reviewed April 2013)

2. "AMERICAN HUSTLE" Directed by David O. Russell
And speaking of disingenuous films, there was none more disingenuous than David O. Russell's "American Hustle," a film that I have made no secret as to how much I hated it, especially as I am strongly feeling that it is on its way to winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Look, dear readers, perhaps I can explain my loathing in this manner. Just the other day, one of my co-workers approached me and told me that she saw the film and enjoyed it very much. She expressed that she liked the costumes, the soundtrack, and the period design and she even loved how Russell used the vintage studio logo to open his film. It made her feel as if she was watching a film from the time period rather than seeing a film set within the time period. OK. But, there was something very notable and crucial about the reasons why she liked "American Hustle" so much. She never once mentioned the characters or the story. And that's why I hated this film so damn much because, like "Oblivion," I feel as if David O. Russell is trying to pull a fast one over the audience. That if he just loads his movie with stars, dresses them up in 70's clothing and provides a killer soundtrack, then that's all there is to his movie and Lord help me, his ploy has indeed worked due to the ocean of accolades and awards the film has already attained. But, I'm sorry. I was not fooled for one solitary moment as "American Hustle" is a barely conceived, barely written, barely edited, sloppy, sluggish, superficially glitzy mess of a movie that stranded nearly all of its actors (especially Jennifer Lawrence) with barely any characters to play or any motivations to play them. If this film does indeed win the Oscar for Best Picture, I feel that it will be the worst Best picture winner in a long, loooong time. Don't believe the hype!!!!!!!!!!
(Originally reviewed December 2013)

1. "OLDBOY" Directed by Spike Lee
I truly never thought that I would see this day when I would have Spike Lee, one of my favorite and one of the finest American filmmakers working today, sitting in this spot of delivering the worst film of 2013, but unfortunately here he is. Look, I have read the industry news that the studio severely re-edited the film, cut out nearly an hour of footage and Lee and star Josh Brolin are extremely unhappy with the results, so much so that Lee removed his trademark credit "A Spike Lee Joint" and his 40 Acres And A Mule production logo from the film entirely. Even so, I have to comment upon what I saw and what I saw was the most repugnant, filthy, nastiest piece of trash I saw. Now the story line of a man imprisoned by an unknown tormentor for 20 years and who is then released and embarks upon a revenge filled journey of uncovering the mystery of his capture is indeed compelling but it is a film that is entirely devoid of any purpose or soul other than depicting ruthless acts of ultra-violence at its grisliest. Simply stated, "Oldboy" is an ugly film about ugly people that is vacant of any sense of social value on any conceivable level making this experience nothing more than a snuff film with a big budget. I am positive that Spike Lee will return to his trademark level of excellence once again but he first needs to profoundly wash the stink of this exercise off of him. I'm still trying to wash it off of myself for having viewed it.
(Originally reviewed December 2013)

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!! I already feel better. Stay tuned for my Top Ten Favorite Films of 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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