Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

PAGPAG

What the hell is this? Why would I want to see more? And, can this really be called a horror film?

My track record as an ardent supporter of horror movies is well documented, to the point where I’ve been known to go to the mat in support of the genre because I truly believe that visual filmmaking at its purest can be found in a great horror film. Framing, editing, lighting, and music are the tools that have been so brilliantly manipulated by masters like Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Fisher, Polanski, Powell, Young, Carpenter, Craven, and, although bloody as hell, both Argento and Romero.

In a nutshell: It’s films like this that give horror a bad name. This is a big and unequivocal no thank you.

BOY GIRL BAKLA TOMBOY

I’m going to hate-watch this film in theaters. I’m going to purposefully have a horrible day, order some food at the theaters that I know is not on the menu, and stomp toward my dumb front-row seat, drinkless and foodless, ready to watch “Boy Girl Bakla Tomboy.” If I walk out with a smile on my face, then, and only then, will I say something nice about this movie. Can’t wait.

In a nutshell: I care even less about “Boy Girl Bakla Tomboy” than “Pagpag.” That is not a nice thing to say.

MY LITTLE BOSSINGS

You know how some movies look kind of neglected? Not just financially or marketing-wise. I’m talking about the kind of movie that just looks as if no conscious human has ever actually given five minutes of critical thinking to any of the decisions that go into making it? If a studio is a grill on a hot summer day, “My Little Bossings” is the lone hotdog on the edge that gets neglected for hours and never rotated to go over the coals and then when you accidentally serve it to someone they bite into it and it’s still cold inside.

In a nutshell: This was the worst part of my week.
 
 
2013, as far as movie years go, were an embarrassment…of riches, I mean! So much so, in fact, that I’m still scrambling to catch up enough to feel okay about posting my top ten list I keep getting emails about (NOTE: I have gotten NO emails about that). Fortunately, I’m all done watching the crappy movies of the year.

In honor of this milestone, today I’m bringing you the five movies that I feel most personally let down by from the past year. With the caveat that I’m not including “Man of Steel” because enough already, and because I pretty much walked into that one with my eyes wide open.

So, here are five movies from 2013 that are just a regular embarrassment.

5. ELYSIUM

You know, I remember enjoying this movie while I was watching it in the theatre. Now, though, I’m hard pressed to remember anything from it, save a couple of cool action beats. I don’t think I’m alone, as “Elysium” didn’t set the world on fire, and certainly not to the same degree as “District 9.” I remember a couple of common complaints—Jodie Foster’s accent, a general sense of “preachiness”—but my own main issue was the movie just took itself too damn seriously.

This is a flick that desperately wants to be a fun, nasty satire like “Robocop,” but betrays that by shoehorning in unearned emotions too often. 

4. FROZEN

A bit of context: I think “Tangled” is a surprisingly engaging movie. Shallow, a bit, but a lot of fun. Now, I realize that a lot of people also liked this movie. I just don’t understand why. While there’s nothing damningly, horribly wrong with it, it’s one of those common family movies saddled with a pervasive “paint-by-numbers” feel. Things just…happen, not because the story demands it or because it enlightens the themes of the story, but because they’re simply supposed to.

3. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

Look, the first “Star Trek” was a messy affair, but it managed to work in spite of itself. In 2009, Abrams and his cast imbued the highly anticipated reboot with a sense of genuine enthusiasm. The story may have been unlikely, but its characters were memorable, fun, and the absolute point of the film. “Into Darkness,” on the other hand, constantly eschews delving into character stuff in favor of tedious conspiracy-laden plot machinations.

Nobody has clear motives, no actions have consequence. Losing rank, messing up, FUCKING DYING…none of it matters. It’s more than telling that “Into Darkness” has almost the exact same ending as “Star Trek.” What, exactly, have we accomplished here? Nothing.

2. OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

Okay, I don’t think anybody expected this movie to succeed in comparison to the 1939 classic. Nor did anybody really think that the Sam Raimi who made “Evil Dead” and the first two Spider-Man movies was back, let alone working at Disney. I just hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as, you know, that recent “Alice in Wonderland” debacle.

Sadly, “Oz” feels like nothing so much as a Raimi-flavored “Alice” clone. Some of his usual bits of flair (camera tricks, horror iconography) fill in the edges of the frame, but nothing about his sensibilities is truly front-and-center.

Hopefully this marks the bottom of Raimi’s career. I don’t blame him for this entirely—“Oz” has all the signs of a movie that’s been micromanaged and focus-grouped to death. Not unlike “Spider-Man 3” in that regard. 

1. THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Though Marvel’s been on a bit of a hot streak since the first “Iron Man,” their run hasn’t been flawless. “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2” were pretty weak. Still, Joss Whedon coming aboard and delivering the goods with “The Avengers” seemed to indicate that Marvel had this thing figured out. As they moved into Phase 2, Shane Black’s sensational “Iron Man 3” only seemed to confirm it. And then “Thor: The Dark World” came and ruined the party for everybody. 

Anyway, as with “Frozen,” my understanding is that this movie has a decent amount of fans out there. Even more than that movie, I simply don’t know what the appeal is. This is easily the vaguest movie Marvel has put out so far. Things like Thor’s arc, the motives of the villain, the purpose of Jane and her companions are technically included, but rarely defined and never particularly clear. Oh, and the movie desperately wants to be a rollicking comedy but sadly has no idea how to tell a joke.

Also, I like goofy fantasy as much as anybody, but the fantasy in “The Dark World” has no significance. These other realms are presented in the sketchiest forms possible; the texture and color of a well-developed world simply isn’t there. 

The one selling point? Loki. 
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

DELIVERY MAN

Vince Vaughn is back in another comedy that makes you feel uncomfortable with the idea of being near Vince Vaughn. Isn’t it kind of bizarre that he’s constantly playing comedic roles that are kind of slimy and make you not want to know him as a person?

ENDER’S GAME

I never read Ender’s Game, and I know next to nothing about it, so I’d love it if someone would tell me if this adaptation is happening in 2013 because we haven’t had the effects technology to make it until now, or because we’ve literally adapted every single other potential sci-fi blockbuster in print?

BYZANTIUM

This is a vampire movie. I think I saw a commercial for it somewhere once; it’s like…chick vampires. Like a mom and daughter vampire. I bet there’s implied lesbianism. That’s weird, when you think about it. I really have nothing to say this week, do I?
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

THE COUNSELOR

There are basically only two big releases this week and this is the serious one for people who eat off of plates and not out of the pot. It stars everyone in Hollywood including Michael Fassbender and Cameron Diaz.  I don’t want to judge a movie unfairly before seeing it, except that this entire series of articles is based on doing just that, so I’ll point out that I really dislike Cameron Diaz and have not enjoyed anything she has ever done. She makes me think of a rodent.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

The Internet’s pretend girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence is back in the role that made her famous, the mostly mediocre Hunger Games! Yay!

I don’t want to shit on anyone’s parade, but wasn’t the Hunger Games kind of lame?  And wasn’t it solely the fault of both a character terribly named Peeta and that one jackhole’s awful beard? You know what I mean.

I have no idea what this movie is about, having never read the books due to being a self-respecting adult. I don’t read children’s books. It’s fine if you do, though. We’re all proud of you. Anyway, if I had to guess, this one is about how people in a fictional world also want to touch Jennifer Lawrence. And maybe how Peeta is still lame.  Peeta? I mean, come on. It makes the name Katnis seem cool by comparison and Katniss is about as stupid as dry humping a doorknob.
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

ROMEO AND GODDAMN JULIET

This movie is properly called “Romeo and Juliet” but it really deserves that “Goddamn” in the title.  The imdb has 154 matches for the title of “Romeo and Juliet.” And those are just the adaptation that chose the exact name, factor in any film that opted to get cute, like “Gnomeo and Juliet,” and you’re probably over 300.  All the same story, which itself is basically the same love story in probably twice as many again other stories. In short, NO ONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS MOVIE AGAIN. STOP MAKING IT.

STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED

I am going to throw caution to the wind and suggest it’s a piece of shit. Why would I guess that? Have you seen the trailer? If you can sit through this movie without developing ulcers or hemorrhoids, count yourself lucky.

PANDEMIC Z

Oh man, I’m very excited just now. Not because I want to see this movie but because I can smell this disaster from my living room. Look at the title even: “Pandemic Z.” Yeah, very original.  
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that even if this film is complete bollocks, it’d still be worth the price of admission just to see Tom Hiddleston’s Loki again. As far as I’m concerned, too much Loki is never a bad thing.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

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Of course this will be one of the biggest release this month and of course critics will like it. Tom Hanks could shit on a coffee filter and throw it at a baby and it would score at least 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. So this movie is about pirates or cereal or a 70’s band, no one knows and no one cares. It’s Tom Hanks, just give him his acting award and we’ll all move on.

SHE’S THE ONE

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A movie about Dingdong Dantes and Enrique Gil fighting over Bea Alonzo?  No.

 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

CARRIE

Carrie is…wait, what?  Oh, my bad. I’ve already seen this movie. Like 20 years ago.

GETAWAY

This movie stars Selena Gomez and Ethan Hawke. It’s like a shrug somehow manifested itself as a film and now someone expects you to pay to see it. No offense to Ethan Hawke (other than all the offense I just implied) but don’t you feel like he stars in movie because he was sleeping on the set when they started filming and it just seemed financially viable?

The name of the movie implies to me some kind of movie in which driving is integral. I have no idea how driving became so fascinating to people—Fast and Furious, Nascar, the whole thing just boggles the mind when you stop to consider there are 100-year-old ladies out there right now who can drive. It’s not super impressive. Stop pretending it is.
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2

This is the sequel to the best cartoon I have ever seen about giant, weather-related food. That said, in this movie it looks like all the food from part one came to life. The idea of sentient food is off-putting on a basic, existential level. Can you imagine how weird you’d feel if fruit had eyes? If tacos had emotions and desires? That’s the kind of shit that should drive you straight to the mouth of madness.

ESCAPE PLAN

This is a high-concept prison break film, featuring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the two biggest action stars of the '80s and '90s, who are infusing their geriatric and crotchety ways into roles clearly written for men half their age, and costarring 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill, and Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan.

Seriously? Can I buy my ticket right now?
 
 
It’s that most wonderful time of year again, and that means it’s time to monster mash. So from here until Halloween, I’m going to use my column space to give the biggest of ups to my favorite of all things that go bump in the night, The Vampire.

What I have for you right off the “bat” is a diverse list of classic cult films that are as refreshing today as they were when they were made along with some interesting newcomers to counter the lazy argument that vampire cinema is tired, played out, or just not worth our time. If that’s ever been true in your mind, you simply were not looking hard enough. This is a list of cinema to satisfy any discerning film fan with a lust for bloodsuckers. And when I say “lust,” I don’t mean any weak-ass tween romance. Twilight is over; time to get back to what vampires are really about: death and darkness. Embrace the dark side with these underappreciated gems.

5. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

My favorite of the dozens of Vincent Price films I’ve watched, and the best adaptation of Richard Matheson’s seminal classic story “I Am Legend” by a mile. Two miles, actually, but who’s counting? So why isn’t this one counted amongst the stone classics of vampire cinema? I honestly have no idea, but it is without a doubt one of the best.

In case you aren’t aware of the classic tale, this film has Price as the title character. Every night is spent in his home fortress while the local vampire population lays siege and every day is spent gathering supplies and hunting the undead as they lay sleeping.

If you’re only familiar with the Will Smith version of “I Am Legend,” then you have no idea what you are missing out on. This film and the book share one of the darkest and most ironic endings in the history of anything and you’ve really got to experience it to appreciate the story.

4. BLOOD: THE ULTIMATE DEATH

This Japanese tale of vamp sexuality and timeless love features a rather uncreative title that may turn prospective viewers off, but it’s worth looking for if you want a more adult take on vampire romance. Japan in general has a talent for coming up with excellent and creative takes on Western vampire lore, but this one keeps it fairly simple while adding an Asian sensibility.

When a detective investigates a murder, he meets a woman of unfathomable seductiveness and ends up as part of a love triangle dating back to the feudal period. There’s some solid samurai-style action, but the best reason to watch this one is Aya Sugimoto, who is too beautiful to not give off a supernatural aura, making her perfect for her role as a passionate vampire seductress.

3. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS

While we’re in the mood for sexytime, let me point out that in spite of its terrible title, this adaptation of Carmilla happens to be my favorite of Hammer Film Productions’ exceptional stable of classic vampire films. Not only is it red hot, but it is very faithful to the source material and has a lot of genuine creeps to balance out the abundance of female flesh on display.

It’d be easy to write this one off as softcore porn at a glance due to the girl-girl love scenes, but all the film really did was take what was very heavily implied in Le Fanu’s Victorian era novel and put it onscreen in the age of exploitation cinema.

Ingrid Pitt is the polar opposite of the character in the book, which is regrettable, but her commanding performance as a powerful and intimidating undead vampiress makes up for the deviation from source material. Consider this one a must-watch for fans of sexy vampires and classical vampire mythology as well.

 2. VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL

From the classic, seductive, and evocative to the batshit insane we go. Japan’s neo-grindhouse scene is a unique approach to filmmaking where the more offensive, violent, and generally ridiculous a film is, the better it is. And this one is the best.

So you’ve got a Vampire Girl. You’ve got a Frankenstein Girl. They attend the same high school and have a crush on the same boy. You know where this is going. But oh, how they get there. This may be one of my favorite vampire films, but in no way is it for everybody. It’s extreme in every sense and features more black comedy in its running time than America sees in a typical year’s worth of films put together.

Brace yourself for this one if you aren’t familiar with extreme Asian cinema. There is certainly more disturbing fare out there since this is a satire at heart, but it definitely has no aims on political correctness and features literal showers of gore so know what you are getting into before you take this recommendation.

1. THIRST

Chan-Wook Park is one of the best directors on the planet. Watch all of his films. This is a South Korean flick that offers a fresh perspective on the life of the undead with a dose of black humor and a great portrayal of the dilemmas of a moral man becoming a vampire.

When a Catholic priest receives a transfusion of vampire blood while dying and awakens with a new lust for life (and human blood), that’s a good set up. When he falls in love with a married woman, that’s pretty messed up. I’m going to avoid further spoilers, but let me just say that things don’t exactly get less screwed up from that point on.

“Thirst” is an excellent take on vampires that utilizes many of the familiar tropes but uses them in new ways to highlight the classic conflict between the human and the inhuman while also acknowledging that the two are often one in the same.
I could do this all day, but that’s all the bloodsucking I’ve got room for today. Just remember that no matter how many times some film critic declares the genre to be dead or the concept to be tired, vampires always comes back like Christopher Lee’s Dracula and somebody will always come up with a fresh take. It’s as inevitable as death itself. Sleep tight.
 
 
Let’s get back into the nitty gritty of judging movies based solely on their names and maybe their posters or commercials, if I’ve seen them. Totally valid form of film criticism.

GRAVITY

I can’t do this. I can’t. The sound Sandra Bullock makes in the commercial, her “scream,” just kills me. She did the same shit in the movie “Speed” and that’s precisely why I don’t like her. She can’t scream. The sound Sandra Bullock makes when attempting to express fear or distress is so aggravating and awful, I wash my hands of her entire body of work. Does she get sucked into the vastness of space to die alone? Good. I hope so. I can’t watch this film.

LINSANITY

The story of Jeremy Lin’s incredible ass-kicking streak was so ubiquitous last year that even non-sports fans couldn’t avoid it. This is a guy made to be the subject of a documentary feature—and hey, here’s one now!