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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.