10 Worst Films I Saw In 2012

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In most Worst of 2012 lists you’ll find films like “Alex Cross” or “The Three Stooges” but not on mine because I didn’t see them. While there are many films that disappointed me (“Moonrise Kingdom”) or were wildly overpraised (“Cloud Atlas”) I wouldn’t call any of them the worst. Nic Cage films aside I generally do not seek out bad movies for pleasure so that tends to change the grading curve a bit. It also means I went into each one of these with the best of intentions. These 10 films are by no means the worst movies of the year, they are however the worst movies I saw this year, many of which are from respectable filmmakers who managed to miss the mark.

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1. To The Wonder (Terrence Malick) This may seem like hyperbole (especially considering the source) but this was truly the worst film I saw in 2012. Take away “Tree Of Life”s period setting, epic scope & breathtaking cinematography & what are you left with? Just scene after scene of actors who have been left out to dry by their director, swirling around each other in an acting exercise masquerading as a movie. Technically a 2013 release but you have been warned.

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2. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg) Over the last 4 decades, Cronenberg has been responsible for some truly fantastic genre-bending films. This is not one of them. Featuring inane dialogue and embarrassing green screen, the entire thing is so amateurish that you’d never expect to see it as a theatrical release let alone from an auteur of Cronenberg’s stature.

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3. Nature Calls (Todd Rohal) Painfully unfunny boy scout comedy with Patton Oswalt and Johnny Knoxville as feuding brothers. It’s not fun to pick on the little guy and this SXSW entry certainly qualifies so I’ll just say that Oswalt deserves better than this.

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4. Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami) Tests the limits of patience with a pace so leisurely that even one of its characters nods off mid-scene. (Seriously, a 15 minute stretch of this features a character listening to her voicemails in real time.) Kiarostami is an icon of World Cinema but my first dip into his filmography was not especially promising.

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5. The Comedy (Rick Alverson) This supposed satire of aging hipsters (starring Tim & Eric’s Tim Heidecker) plays more like the joke is on the audience than it is on the characters. Intermittently funny but the loosely connected skits grow incredibly tiresome in what might’ve been better presented as a series of shorts on VICE.com.

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6. To Rome With Love (Woody Allen) Any goodwill earned from last year’s surprise hit “Midnight In Paris was quickly spent here with this painfully unfunny anthology of love stories. I’ve seen all but maybe 5 of Allen’s 42 features and this is easily one of his worst.

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7. Sleepless Night (Frédéric Jardin) "It’s ‘Die Hard’ in a nightclub!" promised the breathless festival reviews of this French thriller. Do not believe the hype. I’m convinced if this weren’t subtitled, most critics would’ve never given this dopey, ineptly staged “Taken” ripoff a passing grade.

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8. The Dictator (Larry Charles) Sacha Baron Cohen is an extremely talented comedian but since “Borat” exploded back in 2006, he’s had an extremely difficult time translating his comedy to the big screen. All the ADR’d jokes in the world could not disguise the fact that his latest just wasn’t very funny. A shame.

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9. John Carter (Andrew Stanton) This was a punching bag from the word “go” but that doesn’t change the fact that it just doesn’t work on a basic storytelling level. A crushing disappointment coming from Stanton who has been trained in the Pixar school of “story first.” Fun sequences here and there but overall it’s an overly complicated misfire.

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10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb) I would sooner revisit the silly “Spider-Man 3” than watch this again. Tedious, mostly dour and fails to get right the one thing that should’ve been impossible to mess up: the title character. This will be remembered as the film that made Peter Parker a brooding dickhead. Why anyone campaigned to bring back the director for the sequel is beyond my comprehension.

The Dictator review

The writing has been on the wall for a while now but it appears the world has grown tired of Sacha Baron Cohen’s schtick. It didn’t take long either. Since “Borat” exploded like a comedy bomb in 2006, the comedian has had a tough time finding an act that could follow it. Expectations were high for “Bruno” - another semi scripted/real people in fake situations comedy - but the movie failed to meet them, despite Cohen’s fearlessness to up the ante on the stunts. The character just wasn’t as interesting and the gags felt worn out. He’d only been to the well once but the well was already dry. After a few years of supporting parts in films like “Hugo” and “Sweeney Todd,” he’s returned with a new character and film, “The Dictator.” Cohen stars as General Aladeen, the dictator of a fictional middle eastern country called Wadiya, who ends up being replaced by a double and forced to live as a commoner in NYC in a “Trading Places”/”Coming To America” style fish out of water comedy. On paper, this sounds like a fine premise for the comedian to let loose his unchecked id.

But the teaser trailer was devoid of laughs (though the final one was much better) and in character promotional appearances felt forced, desperate even. I went into the film with modest hopes but unfortunately the film is a mess. Most notable is that I have never seen a movie in my life with as much ADR as this one. Nearly half the jokes in the film seem to have been written after the film had already been assembled to be delivered when a character’s back is turned right before the scene ends. It’s distractingly bad. Anna Faris (looking unfortunate with a short pixie cut) is stranded here as the environmentalist love interest and UCB fave Jason Mantzoukas unfortunately doesn’t get the big break I might’ve hoped for. The film has a handful of decent laughs in it but it’s too lightweight, too cartoonish to stick. A speech towards the end of the movie delivered by Aladeen about how America could never be a dictatorship (said with a fair amount of irony) hints at the political edge the film might’ve had, if it had aimed a little higher than just being a dumb comedy.

13 Films I Am Probably Definitely Going To See This Summer

Well, “The Avengers” is out today which must mean that Summer Movie Season is once again upon us. For the next 3 months multiplexes will be pummeled with all manner of potential blockbusters (with the occasional arthouse counterprogramming). While I’ve also seen a handful of Summer releases which I’d recommend including “The Avengers,” “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” “The Loved Ones" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" there are still plenty of films left to go. Some I couldn’t be less interested in (“Battleship” “Men In Black 3” etc.), some I’m more curious about than anticipating and some I’m really, really looking forward to (see below!) Alright, May to August here we go!

1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) Christopher Nolan returns to finish his epic Bat-trilogy. I walked out of “The Dark Knight” thinking it was an impossible act to follow, but 4 years later I’m starting to think that if anyone can do it, Nolan can. Watch the trailer.

2. Prometheus (June 8) This quasi-prequel to “Alien” marks director Ridley Scott’s first foray into sci-fi in 30 years. It looks incredible but can it possibly live up to the trailer?

3. Moonrise Kingdom (May 25) Despite a decade of diminishing returns for the celebrated auteur I remain hopeful that his latest - a 60’s set tale featuring two 12 year old runaways - will mark a return to form. Wes Anderson, I just can’t quit you. Watch the trailer.

4. Brave (June 22) After punishing America last summer with a film whose name I dare not speak, Pixar look ready to apologize to us. I haven’t been blown away by the trailers but am still hoping that my blind faith in the studio will pay off with another classic.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) It may seem too soon to push reset on the “Spider-Man” series but the 3rd entry was a “Batman & Robin”-level disaster that really called for it. Add Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and some unexpected talent behind the camera and I’m definitely curious to see what they do with it. Watch the trailer.

6. ParaNorman (August 17) From the studio that brought you “Coraline” comes another dark and beautiful looking stop-motion tale. This one features a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead. Watch the trailer, be convinced.

7. Snow White & The Huntsman (June 1) Though I’m not really interested in the whole fairy tale re-imaginings (started by Tim Burton’s odious “Alice In Wonderland”) I have to say I’ve been curious about this one since I saw some visuals last year at Comic-Con. Watch the trailer.

8. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (June 22) A dark comedy about the end of the world starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Doesn’t that sound like something you would want to see? Watch the trailer.

9. Neighborhood Watch (July 27) Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“‘s Richard Ayoade in a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg scripted, Akiva Schaffer (Lonely Island) directed comedy about suburban dads who defend their neighborhood from aliens. Watch the trailer.

10. The Campaign Will Ferrell v. Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians. (August 10)

11. Ted (July 13) From the creator of “Family Guy.” But just watch the trailer.

12. The Dictator (May 16) The first trailer was very bad but the new one is much better!

13. Ruby Sparks (July 25) From the directors behind “Little Miss Sunshine” comes their long awaited sophomore feature which could be too precious or it could be cute.Watch the trailer.

Also: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), The Bourne Legacy (August 3), Dark Shadows (May 11), Magic Mike (June 29), Savages (July 6).