Of this year’s glaringly awful movies, all of which had the gaul to ask for your hard-earned cash, the ones that truly offended weren’t so much the dumb comedies and special-effects clunkers that annually fall to the bottom, but the failed prestige flicks that promised far more than entertainment. Behold the worst of the worst.
A divisive festival hit, this claustrophobic retelling of a real-life string of “strip search prank call scams” tricked many viewers into thinking it had true sociological importance, its what-would-you-do quandary emerging as a hollow talking point. But as it watches a restaurant manager blindly follow the phoned-in orders of a pervert posing as a cop, and dehumanizing an innocent female cashier in the process, “Compliance” becomes less and less a conversation piece than something altogether unwatchable — a sadistic lab-rat experiment and the feel-bad movie of the year.
The fetishization of Chloë Grace Moretz, continues with this utterly pointless coming-of-age road movie, which borrows from “Taxi Driver” and “The Wizard of Oz” for no discernible reason but to wink at the audience. Plotless and interest-free, it’s an insufferable ride that can’t end soon enough.
The title says it all in this Katherine Heigl action comedy, which sees its star collect another paycheck to ingratiating effect. Feeding the stereotype that all New Jerseyians get their GTL (gym, tan, laundry) on, Heigl plays a Snooki-fied bail bondswoman in training, which is just as implausible as it sounds. Made by women but regressively sexist, the film’s a feminist failure to boot.
Part horror film, part sticky-sweet sapfest, J.A. Bayona’s “The Impossible,” which recounts the plight of one family who survived the 2004 tsunami disaster, is as tonally incongruous as it is laughably insensitive, causing nausea with both gore and sentiment as it glorifies one lily-white clan above all others who lived through the terror. The fact-based story does nothing to help Bayona’s bad taste, which involves repurposing the same old disaster-movie formula, and giving this fateful event the Roland Emmerich treatment.
Many will tell you that “Clash of the Titans” marked a low-point in 3-D filmmaking, its hasty post-conversion resulting in grayed, hideous imagery. Now comes the cash-conscious sequel, which is just as ugly but twice as abrasive and bombastic. Following the modern mantra that more is more and bigger is best, “Wrath” sees a “Clash” Kraken and raises it an unfathomably huge lava monster, which all but eats the screen as viewers strain to keep watching. This is excess for excess’ sake, a needless sequel and the worst kind of studio tentpole.
As biopics go, “The Raven” must be some kind of first, desecrating its subject’s memory while twisting his final days into a bygone-era “CSI” episode. Someone is killing people in manners reflecting Edgar Allen Poe’s (John Cusack) stories, making the author a suspect, and then, the greatest asset to police. Cusack tries to give gravitas to literature’s dark prince, but all efforts are negated by this ludicrous production, which devalue’s Poe’s work with a stupid whodunit, and makes the grand, retrospective mistake of implying that he was a legend in his own time. Nevermore, indeed.