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.

To Rome With Love review

Of Woody Allen’s 42 features, I’ve seen probably all but about five, so believe me when I say that “To Rome With Love” is probably one of his worst films ever. (It joins the bottom 3 with “Anything Else” and “Whatever Works,” both nearly unwatchable.) It’s especially disheartening considering it’s only been a few months since he took home an Oscar for the screenplay for “Midnight In Paris,” his highest grossing and arguably most enjoyable film in decades. But the comeback was short lived as his latest proves that this has been one of the most erratic decades of his career. The anthology of tales features an ensemble cast of characters in loosely related stories of love, lust and the pitfalls and perks of fame. After a grating introduction by a traffic cop who addresses the audience to tell us that we’re about to see what the city of Rome has to offer, we’re introduced to Hayley (Alison Pill), a tourist on her way to the Trevi Fountain and Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), a Roman who leads her there.

After a brief montage of the two falling in love, we’re then introduced to the couples parents. Hers are retired music exec Jerry (Allen, looking considerably older than his last onscreen appearance in “Scoop”) and Phyllis (Judy Davis) and his are opera singer Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) and wife (whose character is basically wallpaper). Jerry discovers that Giancarlo has a magnificent singing voice when he hears him belting out operas in the shower and convinces him to take his talents onstage. Giancarlo resists initially but after much stammering from Jerry eventually agrees only to blow his audition. They soon devise that the missing ingredient must be the shower and then stage an opera that allows Giancarlo to soap up while he sings. Elsewhere, uptight newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) who are looking to move to the big city if they can ace an ‘important meeting’ with Antonio’s uncles. Milly goes to get her hair done, getting lost along the way while Antonio is accidentally visited by prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz) who tags along on his meeting pretending to be Milly.

Not even Cruz’s curve-hugging prostitute’s outfit can save what is basically a mediocre episode of “Three’s Company.” In the strangest segment, an ordinary man, Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), who is suddenly chased by paparazzi and deemed to be famous for absolutely no reason. Silly? Sure. But funny? Not really. Which is the problem for most of the segments. The biggest laugh in the film actually comes accidentally during in another tale: this one of couple Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Sally (Greta Gerwig). Sally introduces Jack to her friend Monica (Ellen Page), an actress and seductress but is concerned that Jack won’t be able to help himself. However Allen came to cast Page as a sex bomb with a straight face is unintentionally the funniest thing in the film. In another strange turn, architect John (Alec Baldwin), who has already been established as a real person having lunch with his wife, starts appearing to the couple as a wise sage. But confusingly it takes a handful of scenes before you can even decipher if he’s actually supposed to be there or just a product of imagination.

As far as a travelogue, the film sticks mainly to the touristy areas (meaning I recognized most of the major locations from my 4 days there in ‘09) which is the equivalent of setting a film in New York and having all of the scenes take place in front of the Statue of Liberty or in the Empire State Building. Some of the threads are thematically linked like the men who can’t seem to help themselves from cheating but others really have nothing to do with anything. Light and forgettable and but painfully unfunny, “To Rome With Love” proves that the director’s winning streak with ‘Paris’ was fleeting. Allen may have set out to make an Italian sex comedy, but he came up a little light on both fronts.