The Most Disappointing Films of 2012


I did say that we weren't quite done with 2012. Some of the most disappointing movie experiences of 2012 didn't show up on my worst of 2012 list. Why? Well, they were either too good-looking, their mistakes were conceptual or they just didn't piss me off as much as the 25 movies that did end up on the list.

Expectations also play a role. You didn't find 2-Headed Shark Attack on the worst of 2012 list, because I got exactly what I expected. The film kept its promises, and I had fun hating it with a few buddies. There were some movies that disappointed me deeply, though, and here are the five worst offenders:


5) The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg was the perfect fit for a live-action version of the classic cartoon hero Tintin. So why did he decide to make the film in that ugly, dead-eyed animated style known as mo-cap? I would have loved a big adventure-style live-action version of Tintin, but if you're not going to do it live, why bother?

The story never really got exciting, Tintin never became anything other than a digital freak, and the film wasn't funny, exciting or interesting. It was as dead as those dead mo-cap faces.

Lessons learned:
- Asking "how should this be made?" is just as important a question as "should this even get made?"
- Never ever ever do mo-cap.

4) The Hunger Games

The book was.... fine. I guess. A mishmash of other science fiction stories with some Twilight-ish garnish. I could see the story work as a film, and the casting of Jennifer Lawrence was spot on, but everything else wasn't. The film was woefully miscast, from the Ken-doll love interest to Woody Harrelson in a bad wig. On top of that the director's shooting style was infuriating, the designs were awful, and everything looked cheap.

Lessons learned:
- Be aware of novels told in 1st person perspective.
- If you want to start a multi-million dollar franchise, put some damn money on the table.

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I had certain problems with The Dark Knight, but it still had some spectacular sequences, unfortunately it spent two great bad guys, so there was nothing left for the inevitable third film. All we got was a drunk Scot with a mumble-mask.

After that everything fell apart. The film failed to cash in on the setup from the previous films, the bad guy's plan was complete nonsense, and the plot-holes were massive. Batman suddenly stopped being cool.

Lessons learned:
- Simple works.
- Chris Nolan is not God.
- Don't sent a drunk Scot to do a psychotic-man-who-lost-his-girlfriend-and-half-his-face's job.

2) The Avengers

I don't know why I thought this would be a good film. I haven't really liked most of the previous Marvel stories, but I guess I got caught up in the whole "Joss Whedon can save us" lunacy. Well, of course he couldn't save this dish, when all the ingredients were rotten to begin with. Well, perhaps that's unfair. The script is the only really big problem here, if that had been fixed, I do believe this could have been a good super hero movie.

First item of the fix-this list should have been: "Let's get rid of that f**king blue glowing square".

Lessons learned:
- Two wrongs don't make a right. Five wrongs don't either.
- $200 million and an insane posse of reality-challenged fans is no substitute for a decent story.
- Over-reliance on CGI effects sucks the soul out of a film.

1) Prometheus

I said my piece on this already here and on the commentary I did with my buddy Dennis Rosenfeld. With some distance to this, perhaps we can boil down the problems to a few basic lessons....

Lessons learned:
- Never hire Damon Lindeloff.
- Respect the franchise.
- Don't be an ignorant d*ck about science.
- If you treat your characters and the audience like idiots, you'll end up as the biggest moron of them all.



I've bought or will buy all these films on Blu-ray. The reason is the same as why they didn't end up on the "worst of 2012".

They are not just failures, they are BIG failures. They cost a lot of money, a lot of talented people worked on them, and I believe we can learn a lot about what NOT to do, by studying them. Sequels are already underway for most of them. Whether they too will end up on a similar list, only time will tell. Watch this space...



The 25 Best Movies I Saw In 2012

Following up on The 25 Worst Movies I Saw In 2012, here's a list of the best films I saw last year. It wasn't hard coming up with a list this year. Could probably have made a top 40 if I could have been bothered, but I couldn't, so here's a top 25.

25) Looper

The fantastic science fiction premise, and a cooler than cool Joseph Gordon Levitt earns this movie a place on the good list. The lackluster second part of the story pulls it down to the bottom. The most fantastic scene of 2012 makes it unmissable.

24) Cabin in the Woods

Rarely has such a fantastically ludicrous story been told with this much glee. The film revels in its meta-premise and you can tell the director was standing behind the camera jumping up and down with excitement after every shot. It's a contagious feeling.

23) Premium Rush

Perhaps not as interesting as that previous Joseph Gordon Levitt film, but far more even, and ultimately more enjoyable. A completely over the top Michael Shannon makes for a perfect foil to Levitt's irresponsible bike messenger, and those chase scenes through the crowded streets are exhilarating!

22) Goon

A teddy bear bouncer and his fighting talents are put to good use on an ice rink, despite the fact that he can't skate to save his life. He can give a beating though, which earns him a spot on a struggling hockey team. Seann William Scott is wonderfully restrained and tender in the lead, Alison Pill is adorable as his love interest ("You make me wanna stop sleeping with a bunch of guys."), and Liev Schreiber creates a most exquisite comedy bad guy. Stick with this one, it's a winner.

21) The Muppets

Everyone loves The Muppets, and a return seemed inevitable, but we didn't see this coming. The film perfectly captures the spirit of the old characters, while acknowledging that they perhaps no longer have a part to play in the hectic modern world. Or maybe they do after all? Let's sing a song about it!

20) The Viral Factor

A sprawling, gorgeous, melodramatic action movie - the kind Hong Kong used to make by the truckloads. Two brothers reunited, one a cop, the other a criminal. A dreadfully nasty bad guy with a dreadfully nasty virus. Chaos! Mayhem! The guns never run dry (except when it's most inconvenient) and the slow-motion never ends. A bold, beautiful ballet of bullets and brotherhood.

19) The Ides of March

This mesmerizing, taut thriller with a black heart once again proved that George Clooney is a great director. Ryan Gosling's performance is a study in efficiency, and the whole effort just radiates smart. You can feel your IQ growing as you watch it.

18) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

More of the same from director Guy Richie, whose updated Sherlock Holmes is more superhero than supersleuth, but never mind that. Who cares if we've seen it all before, when we're having this much fun seeing it again?

17) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I was fully expecting to loathe this schmaltzy, melodrama about an obnoxious kid who's struggling with the loss of his father, but much to my surprise, it completely got the better of me. The drama worked, the tears arrived as they should, and even the kid worked. How about that?

16) God Bless America

This year I got familiar with the work of director Bobcat Goldthwait, culminating in his newest film, which takes on the intellectual decline of America, OD'ed on celebrity gossip and news about nothing. His knife is sharp and he cuts deep. Say what you will about the quality of the film (its low budget occasionally shows), but if you hate the message when it's all over, you'll know you're part of the problem.

15) ParaNorman

Delightful and quirky stop-motion animation, with a Spielbergian suburban feel, a Tim Burtonesque fascination with the macabre, and it's a stunning visual feast to boot.

14) Safe House

Never mind the straight-forward story, this is one damn solid thriller. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds go head to head, and when that happens there's nowhere you'll rather be. Lush, confident direction from Daniel Espinosa seals the deal.

13) Cockneys vs. Zombies

What it is about Brits and zombie comedies? Don't let the silly title fool you, and don't be discouraged by the fact that Shaun of the Dead was there before this film. You will not be able to resist this perfect little, cheeky gem, with lots of heart, full of inventive ideas. Plus, Michelle Ryan's in it. She's a biscuit, don't you know.

12) The Guard

The combination of Brendan Gleeson's crude sergeant and Don Cheadle's posh FBI agent  is so wonderfully absurd you'll be forced to sit up and take notice, at which point the film will do everything in its power to rattle you, with its unapologetic racist ("I'm Irish sir. Racism is part of my culture.") and completely corrupt lead character, razor sharp dialogue, and quirky small-town setting. As Cheadle's character says at one point: "I can't tell if you're really motherf***in' dumb, or really motherf***in' smart." You won't have those doubts about the film itself.

11) The Artist

A beautiful love letter to cinema. Perhaps even more poignant in this day and age, with the rise of digital film, and the decline in the quality of our stars - these days you just have to f*ck on tape to become famous, back then you had to have style, and you had to accomplish something.

10) Skyfall

A stunning return to form for the Bond series, edging the franchise towards the Brosnan years, without losing the brute force of the earlier Daniel Craig efforts. Despite a few overly familiar plot points, there's no getting around the fact that this movie just plain works. Just lean back and enjoy the spectacle!

9) The Awakening

Good, solid old school horror movie. Oh, we've missed you so. The period setting is gorgeous, and the story unfolds with great patience. Once the horror starts, the gloves come off, and the film breaks us down with ruthless efficiency and chilling determination.

8) The Woman in Black

See above. Add: "Shit! That Potter kid can act!"

7) The Expendables 2

Jokes about geriatric action stars aside, there's more charisma on display here than in every single Oscar nominated movie combined. You heard me. Watching these old action heroes do what they do best, without any reservations, is truly a sight to behold. The next film can't get here fast enough.

6) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

What a pleasant surprise! Near perfect end-of-the-world film, come road-movie-love-story, with pitch perfect performances by Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. If you have a heart, this will be where it breaks.

5) Anonymous

The only thing more surprising than the fact that Roland Emmerich directed an intelligent, historical drama about Shakespeare is that he did it SO well. Oh sure, the story is little more than intellectual masturbation, and it may all just be a bunch of nonsense, but in Emmerich's hands this becomes a riveting tale, told with a flair for the dramatic, which the director has kept completely hidden from us until now.

4) Argo

Home run. Hole in one. Clean sweep. Whatever cliché about a job done to perfection you can think of, this film deserves it. Ben Affleck's dramatic reenactment of the most ludicrous CIA mission since they dropped that elephant over Vietnam is the very definition of focused storytelling. Even though you know how it ends, you'll be biting your fingernails down to bloody stumps before it's over. That is how it's done. Period.

3) The Grey

Literally the EXACT opposite of Joe Carnahan's dreadful A-Team movie, this survival drama walks the same path as The Edge, but, ironically, a lot closer to the edge of humanity. Liam Neeson should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his performance. Plus, it's full of snow and cold weather! We love that!

2) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Slow-paced, methodical, classy spy movie of the kind that no one makes any more. A Rolls Royce for a time when everyone drives carpool in a Prius. A rare mint first edition, when everyone just downloads the e-book. And in the center of it all Gary Oldman giving the most restrained performance of his career. Pure gold.

1) Safety Not Guaranteed

The story sounded too good to be true, and this film seemed destined to fail and under-deliver. But no. It did the opposite. It fulfilled every promise of its simple premise, and surprised at every turn. Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure. It rarely gets any better than this. It didn't this year that's for sure.


And that's all she wrote. We can't put 2012 to bed yet, but we're getting there.


The 25 Worst Movies I Saw In 2012

It's that time again. The time where we look back on the previous year and wonder how so many filmmakers managed to con us into watching their trash. It's the Bottom 25 of 2012...

25) The Bay

What exactly attracted Oscar winning director Barry Levinson to this dreadful found footage film remains a mystery. Why it happened years after every single person in the universe with a camera has already done a film in this style is equally baffling.

24) Love (Angels & Airwaves)

Props to anyone who makes a low budget science fiction film, but make sure you have a story first. There's barely enough juice here for a 20 minute short. The film drags endlessly,  most of it is stolen from famous films (Moon, A.I. and Contact, plus the 2001 book), and it seems to be laboring under the assumption that it's doing something profound. Also, the cardboard sets don't help. Seriously. Notice the window of the space station buckle, when the astronaut leans against it.

23) Rampart

Swing and a miss from The Messenger director Oren Moverman. Already reviewed here.

22) The Girl

Dreadful attempt to explore the problems between Alfred Hitchcock and Tiipi Hendren, which started during the shooting of The Birds. The film is little more than malicious gossip. It makes preposterous, unfounded accusations against Hitchcock and reduces him to nothing more than a sex-hungry beast, while showing the psychological depth of a piece of cardboard. Plus, it can't even get the most simple and widely known facts right. Utter hack job. For shame. For. Shame.

21) Battleship

Stillborn from the moment we heard Hollywood was going to do a $200 million film version of a bleeding board game. Director Peter Berg is Roger Corman to Michael Bay's David Lean in this context, and no amount of explosions or navy collaboration can distract from the charisma-vortex of Taylor Kitsch, or the frog-faced Rihanna who should never again be photographer or filmed. This battleship isn't sunk, it was built on the bottom of the deepest ocean.

20) John Carter

Stillborn from the moment we heard Hollywood was going to do a $200 million film version of a story everyone has been ripping off for a 100 years, and sure enough, this uninspired, bloated, desert-bound nonsense was every bit as awful as we feared, and no amount of grotesque CGI can distract from the charisma-vortex of Taylor Kitsch. What anyone ever saw in him is a mystery. Get your ass to Mars. And don't come back.

19) The Darkest Hour

Incoherent, dull mess of an alien invasion movie. The threat is non-existing, and if you've seen the trailer, you've seen everything the filmmakers have up their sleeve. Awful dialogue, unrealistic behavior from every single character, and a laughable relationship with continuity.

18) Iron Sky

What if the nazis went to the moon to hide and came back to invade the Earth? Done, now you know the best thing about the film - the setup - everything is downhill from there. This charmless and unfunny amateur film took so long to get finished that the jokes seems to be from the last century.

17) War Horse

Steven Spielberg's film about a horse is even more misguided than "hey, let's bring back Indy", "I can do a Kubrick film", or "Grown Peter Pan is not creepy at all". Never has a film worked so hard to make an emotional impact with so little result, while simultaneously being brain-numbingly dull. Also, why would you make a film about a horse?!

16) Red Tails

Landing somewhere between the Star Wars Holiday Special and The Phantom Menace, this unnecessary retelling of the story about black pilots during WWII set new standards for awkwardness and ugly virtual sets look. Missa wanna see black pilots fwy! Mui mui heroic! Shut up Jar Jar!

15) Madagascar 3

The first one was magical. The second solid. But the third Madagascar movie is a noisy, charmless, ugly, pointless mess. More on that here.

14) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Possibly the most surprising bad film of the year. Big historical figure, whose legacy is rewritten to include vampires, directed by the guy who did the incredibly entertaining Wanted. That should be fun, right? Unfortunately this film was more straight-faced than Schindler's List, less cheeky than 2001: A Space Odyssey and completely incapable of cashing in on its own premise. Never has the thought of a night at the theater seemed more promising.

13) The Tall Man

For a brief moment this film seems to do everything right (Casting Jessica Biel earns you many browny points). Then the film stumbles. And it doesn't just scrape its knee, no-no, this film falls flat on its face right in front of a truck, carrying a nuclear device. The truck slides out and crashes into a chemical plant. Everything blows up, starting a chain reaction that destroys the entire planet. Yup, it really is that stupid.

12) One in the Chamber

I had been looking SO much forward to this new film from Sinners and Saints director William Kaufman. Unfortunately every film he makes seems to be exponentially worse than the last. If this trend continues his next film will be a goat porn film. And a really shitty one too.

11) Tower Heist

A comedy without a single laugh, with a story so moronic and illogical everyone should be in movie jail for 10 years. Eddie Murphy needs to stop. Ben Stiller needs to stop. And Brett Ratner definitely needs to stop. Breathing is optional from this point on, guys. Just saying.

10) Resident Evil: Retribution

There's NO story in this film. Literally NO story. A bunch of random shootouts, and slow-motion fights strung together with no attempt to adhere to any kind of logic. Even worse than the abysmal fourth movie.

9) The Iron Lady

This complete whitewashing of one of the most questionable politicians of modern times is so utterly disgraceful, it's borderline criminal. With virtually no connection to reality the film attempts to portray Margaret Thatcher as a heroic feminist, in a style so misguided the film should literally never have been released.

8) Dark Tide

I already tore into this incompetent mess earlier. Read the full review here. Also... YOU CAN'T SWIM WITH FREAKING SHARKS.

7) Texas Killing Fields

Daughter (Ami Canaan Mann) of previously talented director (Michael Mann) attempts to show her father she can make a worse film than him. And wins by a landslide. Covered in more detail here.

6) The Innkeepers

One of the least scary "horror" movies ever made, ranking somewhere between Young Frankenstein and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Director Ti West displays a stunning lack of insight into his chosen genre (even if this was supposed to be a comedy), and the story goes absolutely nowhere. Only thing worse than the script is the staggeringly unwatchable Sara Paxton, who's less convincing than the kid who plays Anakin Skywalker.

5) Sleeping Beauty

The idea of watching a nude Emily Browning is very appealing. Watching her play an undefinable young girl who's paid to be groped by nasty old men, while she's passed out on a bed... Not so much. There's no real story here, no point, no theme, nothing. It's an art school film in the worst sense, and the fact that it was directed by a woman somehow makes it even more offensive.

4) Piranha 3DD

Hey remember that fairly profitable, overly nasty, incompetent Jaws ripoff we did a few years ago? Let's make a sequel, only let's reduce the budget by 80% so that everything looks even more shitty. Can we also make the effects worse, and shoot it in one of those inflatable swimming pools?

3) Hvidsten gruppen

This lazy, badly researched movie tries to tell the story of heroic freedom fighters in Denmark during WWII. It fails at every turn, including establishing that there's even a war going on, and explaining what these so-called heroes actually contributed.
Person-in-credits Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis (oh I'm sorry, I just can't refer to her using any official job title traditionally associated with the film industry) is unburdened by even the most basic filmmaking skills, and yet it's still unclear if her actors are really that incompetent or if she actively ruined them.

2) Twixt

Why Francis Ford Coppola? WHY?  Why did you do this film? Why did you write such a bad script, shoot it so poorly, and direct it with utter lack of skill? Was it some misplaced loyalty to old friend George Lucas? Did you try to distract everyone from The Phantom Menace by making something SO MUCH worse that everyone would forget that turd?

1) Den sidste rejse

This Danish black comedy action film, featuring the once marginally funny comedy duo of Finn Nørbygaard and Jacob Haugaard, is a failure on EVERY SINGLE LEVEL. Literally NOTHING works in it. NOTHING. The blame lies partially with the two "comedians", but mostly former stuntman Lasse Spang Olsen - who must have taken one too many punches to the face. He not only directed this film but also developed and wrote the script, photographed and edited, while providing stunt coordination, the visual effects, and the behind the scenes material. At least he sucks equally at everyone of these jobs.


And there you have it, my Bottom 25 list for 2012. Stay tuned for the Top 25 list.