The 9 Worst 2010 Blockbusters I've Seen

I had to insert the caveat "I've Seen", since I recognize that there are plenty of awful movies I didn't bother to watch. I'm sure that Charlie St. Cloud or Devil would have found a cushy spot on this list, but I don't waste my time on run of the mill bad movies. There's a special place in my heart for so-bad-it's-good movies, but such accidental masterpieces rarely get wide releases. I didn't bother trying to extend the list to ten, since these 9 are far worse than anything I could tack on the end.

9) Robin Hood

This was the year's second most disappointing film. Pairing a talented director like Ridley Scott with stalwart actor Russel Crowe should result in a reasonably good film. Unfortunately, the screenplay was riddled with stilted dialogue, and bizarre creative license. I don't have an issue with movies emphasizing the political elements of classic tales, but the least they could have done was get the politics right.

8) The Expendables

I don't usually expect much from generic action movies. However, this wasn't supposed to be a generic action movie. After career redeeming roles from Jean Claude Van Damme (JCVD), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), it seemed that the idea behind The Expendables was to bring together a slew of washed up action stars to make a credible film. At least that's how it was billed. In the end, it was nothing special. In fact, I can barely recall the plot outline. No wonder Van Damme turned down a part. Unlike the stars of the expendables, it turns out that he actually does have a smattering of dignity.

7) Hot Tub Time Machine

I've got a pretty low bar for mainstream comedies. They aim for the lowest common denominator, and are usually not far off. At least they usually provide a few cheap laughs. Not so with Hot Tub Time Machine. It was so thoroughly unamusing that I had to re-watch Office Space afterwards to make sure I was still capable of laughing.

6) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

I don't expect much of Oliver Stone anymore, but I had to see this since I'm interested in how complex public policy issues are distilled into film. I'll give him some credit: he didn't stoop to Michael Moore levels. Given that the cast included Carey Mullingan and Josh Brolin, and Michael Douglas, I expected this to compare favourably with the average Stone flick. In fact, it might well be his worst film. The mediocre screenplay might have been salvaged to a degree were it not for his decision to cast Shea LaBeouf in the lead role. I might have been able to take the contrived narrative, and pointless plot twists a bit more seriously if the lead role was filled by someone who could...what's that word? Act.

5) The Sorceror's Apprentice

There is nothing as annoying as a movie that tries to beat you over the head with an emotional mallet. This is exactly what The Sorceror's Apprentice does. It is a classic loser gets the girl movie, filled with precisely timed feel good music and handy little life lessons. It was probably the most annoying movie I actually sat through, but I'm holding it to a slightly lower standard, since it is a kids movie.

4) Predators

I walked out of this after the third time Topher Grace yelled out "Guys! What's happening?" That pretty much summed up how I felt about the movie at that point, so it felt like an appropriate segue. To my surprise, it turns out that the mind bogglingly bad plot got even worse after I walked out. Topher Grace evil mastermind? Really? REALLY?

3) Alice in Wonderland

This was easily the year's biggest disappointment. Had you told me at the start of the year that two of the worst films would be collaborations between Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe, and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, I wouldn't have believed it. Like Robin Hood, Alice was a revisionist version of the tale, that successfully purged the story of everything interesting. Moreover, the sexual overtones of the film were disturbing on multiple levels. If Burton wanted to make a version of Alice for grown ups, he should have just gone ahead and done it. This wasn't subversive. It was just tasteless.

2) Splice

Trans-gendered bi-sexual incestuous inter-species sex. While there were only two scenes of this description in the movie, it was more than enough to ruin the already mediocre film.

1) Hereafter

In Hereafter, Clint Eastwood tries to do two things. First, he attempts to show how death affects three different people in different ways. Second, he strains to find a way to put these three people (from different countries) into a room. A great director would have stuck to the first. Doing both severed its ties with reality--let alone plausibility--and allowed it to become a full blown fairy tale for adults. It is two hours and nine minutes of non-stop coincidences. The only consolation was occasional unintentional humour that made the whole experience slightly less excruciating.


The Tourist: Brilliant Satire Confuses Critics

★ ★ ★ 1/2

I usually make a halfhearted effort to hide my disdain for the average movie critic. After a string of excellent movies were widely panned, my patience has worn thin. The Tourist is the last straw. The critical consensus is that it has little to offer but attractive stars and a simplistic plot. They couldn't be more wrong. Ostensibly an ordinary spy film, it was in fact a biting satire of the genre.

The first thing you'll notice about the movie is that the male lead isn't exactly James Bond. Rather, Depp plays an insecure Midwestern math teacher. By contrast, Angelina Jolie stars as a worldly woman of mystery, pursued by Scotland Yard. Depp's character is just the sucker who she's dragging around, one step ahead of her pursuers. Reading this description probably makes you think that this is a parody of a Bond film. It is. This eluded the critics.

What The Tourist lacks in explosions and crass humour, it makes up with a deceptively complex plot, and a pair of clever lead roles. The sheer lack of chemistry between Depp and Jolie (which the critics failed to realize was intentional) lead to plenty of ackward humour, and clever banter. Jolie is suave, and manipulative. Depp's character is, well, a math teacher. In the hands of any other actor, the role would have been unremarkable. His halting demeanor and overrationalizing under fire had me in tears the whole way through. Maybe it's because I've seen Fear and Loathing dozens of times, but every one of Depp's bizarre mannerisms had me in stitches. I kept hearing him ask in my head "is this not a reasonable place to park?" It wasn't Johnny Depp playing a Midwestern school teacher. It was Johnny Depp playing Raoul Duke portraying a Midwestern school teacher. In short, it is the funniest movie of the year.