So 2014 is upon us and with optimism running high and all eyes looking forward to the big releases coming out this year, it seems like the perfect time to buck this wide-eyed trend and bemoan the most disappointing movies that came out last year.
Just to qualify that, I don’t mean the worst movies of 2013; I’m talking about the ones with real promise that failed to deliver on their potential.
And so in no particular order…
1) We’ll open the list with Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad, a backlit noir caper released way back in January of 2013. How could this go wrong you may ask with such an arresting trailer and a director who infused Zombieland with such easy wit? It’s not hard to understand your confusion; after all Brolin is suitably lantern jawed, Gosling is the smooth young buck and a stellar cast is rounded out with some Emma Stone based sass and the reliably dead eyed Sean Penn. But for all its claims of hard-hitting glamour with a tagline proclaiming No Names. No Badges. No Mercy, the film is pure style over substance, glossy and heartless with a predictable climax and a bagful of gangster clichés slung over its shoulder. I was really looking forward to this, in fact it was the first film I saw last year but after watching it through, I have to admit I wish I’d picked something else to start my yearly cinema odyssey.
2) The Place Beyond the Pines: sorry Ryan, it’s nothing personal, honest. And in fact the first third of this movie actually delivers exactly what it promises- a hard nosed romance- with rose tinted glasses thrown by the wayside on a nameless highway. But and it’s a substantial but… as soon as tragedy strikes and Derek Cianfrance’s focus moves to other characters, the film basically falls apart and becomes at best disjointed, at worst sluggish. To be fair, the marketing people criminally misled the public with a trailer solely showing Gosling’s intense bad-assery but even leaving that fact aside, the incoherent shift in tone and the debilitating loss of pace can only leave you feeling disappointed once the credits roll. Gutting.
3) A Field in England: and so we exclaim, Oh Ben Wheatley, what happened? Kill List was a dark twisted triumph of a hit man film. And Sightseers a dark comic gem. And then this. This chaotic, film-studentesque monochrome nightmare whose hallucinogenic charmlessness is only eclipsed by its complete ridiculousness. Chocked to the gunnels with cult comic stars and character actors, you wouldn’t think this could possibly be as awful as it is, but at this point I’m actually considering the idea that this film was made by God himself as a mini prelude to the main show- Purgatory. Pretentious and self indulgent barely covers the film’s tone and although I applaud all kinds of cinematic experimentation, this particular example really should be buried at least six foot deep in the field in Farnham, Surrey that they used as a location. Dreadful and a massive step backwards for the British director.
4) R.I.P.D: A critical and commercial bomb, this movie has a lot to answer for. Starring not only The Dude but indisputably cool TV icons such as Mary Louise-Parker and Robert Knepper, the film based on Peter M. Lenkov’s comic had major major potential to be a cult classic when it was released. But then it hit. And with its bland Ryan Reynolds narration, mediocre special effects and the best lines already revealed in the trailer, it caused jaws to drop for all the wrong reasons. The comedy mismatched duo trope was clearly done much more successfully in Men in Black. The formulaic three act plot could have basically been written by any relatively well-read schoolchild. And the plot holes- don’t even get me started… In all fairness, we probably should have read something into the fact that the movie wasn’t screened in advance for the critics but as it is, all we can do is whimper inconsolably at the wasted potential in Robert Schwentke’s talent less flick.
5) Oz: The Great and Powerful and so finally to Sam Raimi’s techni-coloured head tilt to everyone’s childhood fantasy favourite. Dripping with lustrous hues and intricate backdrops, you could be forgiven for giving this film the benefit of the doubt. But… that may turn out to be a mistake. Complete with one writer credited for the screen story and two more for the script, the messy plot is obvious from the moment James Franco lands in the infamous Oz, the greyscale opening being the only part that lingers in the memory. From that point on our eyes are assailed with intangible, unreal landscapes- beauty without any reason or emotion which is surprising considering Raimi actually built physical sets for the actors benefit. And as much fun as it is to see ‘proper’ actors like Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams play off each other’s screen presence, that’s really not enough to keep the attention for an entire film. I hate to reference monstrosities like the Star Wars prequels but I had the same sense of disillusionment coming out of this as I did with them. And that’s never good, let’s face it.
So…they’re my five picks for the most disappointing flicks of 2013. Agree, disagree? Let me know…