The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


2013 was a very good year for movies. It was also a terrible year for movies. What I mean is that the ratio was off. For every truly great film I saw (and you can read about them on my Ten Best list), there were at least two that I hated. Not disliked, not found mediocre. Outright hated. As a measure of how many awful movies 2013 gave us, consider these titles that didn't make my formal Ten Worst list: Beautiful Creatures, Bullet to the Head, Fast & Furious 6 (okay, I know I'm in the minority on that one), Getaway, Grown Ups 2, The Hangover Part III, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (that's right, I said it), Insidious Part 2, Jewtopia, Last Vegas, Out of the Furnace, Parker, Peeples, Runner Runner, and Scary Movie 5.

Also not making the cut are little indie movies that almost no one saw or even heard of, like the Christian Slater sci-fi drama Stranded, the inept horror flick Butcher Boys, or the shoddy religious rom-com A Strange Brand of Happy. Picking on them seems kind of pointless, but rest assured, they all suck just as much as the movies listed below.

So what are the dregs of the dregs? I'll tell you. Here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2013:

The Ten Best Films of 2013

10. Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor - I've liked some of Perry's previous films, and have even defended his signature mixture of broad comedy, melodrama, and religious messages. But he really went off the deep end with this story of a therapist who cheats on her husband. Aside from casting Kim Kardashian in a supporting role, Perry makes the grave mistake of (SPOILER ALERT!) having every character who has an affair in this movie contract AIDS. I'm sure the director's message was “Infidelity has consequences,” but it comes across as “If you have an affair, you deserve to die of AIDS.” That, my friends, is unconscionable.

9. The Big Wedding - This insipid comedy wasted the talents of everyone from Diane Keaton and Robert DeNiro to Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams. The plot – two young marrieds force the bride's divorced parents to pretend they're still married to avoid offending the groom's super-conservative mother – has all the depth of an especially bad Three's Company episode. Even worse, writer/director Justin Zackham tries to hip his movie up by packing it with non-stop sex talk. A huge embarrassment for everyone involved.

8. G.I. Joe: Retaliation - After seeing the first G.I. Joe movie, I didn't think it would be possible to make one even worse. Boy, was I wrong! This sorry sequel has muddled storytelling that panders to G.I. Joe fanboys, while director Jon M. Chu stages the action with such incessant shaky-cam madness that it is often impossible to tell what's going on. Bruce Willis (a fixture on this year's list) sleepwalks through his extended cameo, not that I blame him.

7. Machete Kills - Robert Rodriguez made a hilarious fake Machete trailer as part of his Grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. It was so well-received that he went on to turn it into a real movie. That flick was mildly amusing, but also the absolute end of the road for the joke. The sequel, Machete Kills, tries to milk even more laughs from the whole We're making it look like an old exploitation movie! schtick that has, by now, been done to death. The ending promises yet another Machete adventure, to which I can only reply: Please, no!

6. After Earth - Conceived by Will Smith as a vehicle for his son Jaden, After Earth is the cinematic equivalent of Rebecca Black's “Friday” - a parent-funded vanity project gone horribly wrong and thrust out into the world for the rest of us to not enjoy. Directed with all the excitement of a funeral procession by M. Night Shyamalan, After Earth shoves a lot of not-so-subtle Scientology themes into a boring sci-fi story about a father and son stranded on a hostile Earth. The younger Smith is not a credible-enough action star at this point, while his father inexplicably delivers all his dialogue in monotone. Cheap visuals only emphasize the other problems. On the Will Smith scale, After Earth makes Wild Wild West look like Independence Day.

The Ten Best Films of 2013

5. A Good Day to Die Hard - This is the Superman IV: The Quest for Peace of the Die Hard series. It is Jaws: The Revenge, The Next Karate Kid, and that movie where Jason Voorhees kills people in outer space. It is Jar Jar Binks, nipples on the Batsuit, and Indiana Jones escaping an atomic blast by hiding in a refrigerator. You know, all those things that happen when a franchise runs on way too long and starts to become a parody of itself. Bruce Willis returns as John McClane, who is lamely forced to bicker with his estranged son while trying to save the world yet again. Here's my question: If the original Die Hard could have a strong script, a memorable villain, and top-notch action scenes 25 years ago, why couldn't this film have them now?

4. The Lone Ranger - What's the biggest flaw in this tedious film? Is it the bland performance from Armie Hammer in the title role? The futile attempt to make the character relevant for modern audiences by sticking him in overblown, CGI-heavy action sequences? The needless two-and-a-half hour running time? The dead bird Johnny Depp wears on his head? Actually, I'm going to pick Depp as the worst thing in a picture filled with bad things. As Tonto, the actor gives his umpteenth performance in which he wears too much makeup, talks in a funny voice, and acts like a weirdo. Depp is a talented guy, but he's really hit the skids lately, confusing intentional bizarreness with legitimate creativity in film after film. The Lone Ranger is now earning “It's not as bad as everyone said” revisionism in some circles, but trust me, it is. Repeatedly punching yourself in the face for 150 minutes would be more fun.

3. Movie 43 - In my original review, I said, “If there's a worse movie in 2013, I'll be very, very surprised.” Guess what? There were two worse movies! But that doesn't mean this one is any better. Half of Hollywood stars in this series of grossout sketches, with topics ranging from a guy with testicles on his neck, to a teen girl's first menstruation, to a woman who wants her boyfriend to defecate on her during sex. Are you laughing yet? No? Amazingly, Movie 43 stars two Oscar winners (Kate Winslet, Halle Berry) and some of the biggest stars in the biz (Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Jason Sedeikis, and Naomi Watts, among others). All were asked to contribute to a short segment as a favor to the filmmakers, led by Peter Farrelly (There's Something About Mary). The problem is that the skits are uniformly offensive and one-note, and stringing them together only creates an intolerable whole. Movie 43 is ultimately about as entertaining as a colonoscopy.

2. InAPPropriate Comedy - Adrien Brody, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, and Rob Schneider all hit career lows in this sketch comedy film from ShamWow pitchman Vince Offer. And it's got all the comedy value you'd expect from a guy who once beat up a hooker. A mysterious figure (played by the director) fiddles with apps on a tablet, each one presenting us with some politically incorrect skit. There's “Flirty Harry,” in which a cop (Brody) only speaks in double entendres for homosexual sex. Even worse is “The Amazing Racist,” a series of (completely staged) hidden camera pranks featuring a guy doing things like offering black people a free boat ride back to Africa and all the fried chicken they can eat. Yep, it's that offensive. InAPPropriate Comedy is the cinematic equivalent of going up to a minority, using the most offensive slurs you can think of, and then saying, “Hey, I'm just satirizing prejudice!” Based on this material, Offer and co-scripter Ari Shaffir (who also plays the Amazing Racist) are probably bad people.

And my choice for the Worst Film of 2013 is:

The Ten Best Films of 2013

1. A Haunted House - Star/co-writer Marlon Wayans is the chief creative force behind this Paranormal Activity spoof. Keep in mind, that movie was released four years before this one, and spawned three sequels in the meantime. Not exactly ripe for parody anymore, know what I mean? If that was the only problem, A Haunted House would be down in the also-rans, alongside fellow PA spoof Scary Movie 5. The reason it's my #1 worst film of the year is due to its shameful stabs at humor. Here is a movie packed to the gills with hatred for women and gay people. Wayans plays a guy who begrudgingly allows his girlfriend to move in with him, only to find out that she's possessed by a malevolent spirit. Portrayed by Essence Atkins, she is irrational, clingy, violently flatulent, compulsively freaky in bed, and thoroughly materialistic (she made a deal with the devil to afford a pair of shoes). The homophobic jokes are even worse. Nick Swardson (Adam Sandler's unfunny pal. No, not that one, the other one.) plays a gay psychic in brazenly stereotypical style. Most of his scenes are devoted to him trying to get sex from the other male characters, who are repulsed by his advances. At one point, Wayans is horrified to wake up during the night and discover that the ghost is anally raping him. (In Wayans' world, all homosexuals, human or ghostly, are only interested in sodomy.) A Haunted House is an unfunny, hateful movie that everyone involved deserves to be ashamed of. Sadly, it did well enough to warrant a sequel, scheduled for release in March. I won't be seeing it under any circumstances.

There you have it – the worst films of 2013. May they be quickly forgotten by all, especially those of us who had to endure them.

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