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


Most years, there are one or, maybe, two movies that earn less than one star from me. In 2012, there were six. I do not believe this is indicative of the year's quality overall; one look at my Best of the Year list shows that 2012 brought plenty of adventurous, outstanding films. No, it's just that the crap was extra crappy this year. And filling up a Worst of the Year list has never been easier.

As always, an important ground rule: I do not see the point in picking on little independent films that hardly anyone saw, which will be good news to the makers of The FP, Jack & Diane, A Bag of Hammers, and ATM. Other than that, anything is fair game.

The ten films listed below are truly wretched. For perspective, here are some bad movies I saw in 2012 that didn't make the list: Dark Shadows, The Details, Haywire, Joyful Noise, One for the Money, On the Road, Paranormal Activity 4, Resident Evil: Retribution, Rock of Ages, The Three Stooges, V/H/S, and The Watch. Yikes, right?

Before we go any further, I want to bestow a special Lack of Merit Award to Act of Valor, which is terrible, but not quite terrible enough to make the formal list. Advertising itself as starring “real active-duty Navy SEALS” using “real ammunition,” the film is like Tropic Thunder in reverse – and almost as funny. Shot with all the panache of a recruitment commercial (which is basically what it is) and shamelessly utilizing every war movie cliché imaginable, Act of Valor is honorable in intention yet atrocious in execution. The poor guys can't act and seem stiff on camera, while the action is staged in a confusing manner. A documentary on the subject of Navy SEALS would have been a better use of everyone's time and money.

Now that that's out of the way, here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2012. Hold your noses.

10. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - Sadly, Nicolas Cage has become a staple on my year-end worst lists. Remember when he was a great actor? Or when he won an Academy Award? What happened to him? I thought the first Ghost Rider was beneath Cage, a cheap-o flick made simply to cash in on superhero-movie mania. This second one – directed by Crank's Neveldine/Taylor duo – is somehow even worse. Plotless, silly, and constantly trying to convince you of its own perceived awesomeness, Spirit of Vengeance made me yearn for the mediocrity of its predecessor.

9. American Reunion - An American Pie reunion probably seemed like a good idea at one point, especially since so many in-name-only sequels were shoddy straight-to-DVD affairs. While all the original actors return, the screenplay has them reenact the exact same raunchy bits that were established in the 1999 original. Instead of having the characters look back at their adolescent stupidity with a more grownup perspective, we find them all just as immature as adults as they were as teens. The only difference is that, as adults, such antics seem more pathetic than funny. That describes the film as a whole, too.

8. Gone - This is a “thriller” starring Amanda Seyfried as a young woman who escaped the clutches of a serial killer and now believes he has returned to take her sister. I missed it during its very brief theatrical release in February, so I watched the DVD in mid-November. Six weeks later, I remember nothing about it, other than thinking “This has to be on my Ten Worst list” while I was watching it. And so here it is.

7. The Magic of Belle Isle - Proof that even Morgan Freeman can suck once in a while. Rob Reiner began his directing career making smart, sharp pictures like This is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me. Recent years, though, have found him turning into America's leading purveyor of terminally sappy sentiment. In his most recent assault on humanity, he casts Freeman as a bitter, alcoholic writer whose heart is melted by a divorcee and her three daughters, and...I think I'm going to throw up now. It's not Freeman's fault that the material is so poor, but he certainly doesn't do anything to bring new life to it. Leaving no obvious cliché unused, Belle Isle feels like a relic of a bygone era with its outdated stereotypes (a mentally-challenged man as comic relief!) and ham-handed emotions. It's the kind of movie your 80 year-old grandmother would love.

6. The Apparition - It's not surprising that a studio dumped this horror flick into a mere 800 theaters during the late August dead zone, with almost no publicity. What is surprising is that they would cut the actual plot out of the movie. Running a mere 73 minutes (before end credits), this story of a young couple (Ashley Green and Sebastian Stan) terrorized by some sort of poltergeist is reported to have once had a semi-interesting premise about how ghosts become real when people believe in them. All that was excised, leaving a bunch of random things that happen out of nowhere, for no discernible reason. I doubt writer/director Todd Lincoln's full cut would have been very good, based on the flat performances and shoddy staging, but it certainly couldn't have been any worse than what's here. Just barely even qualifying as a movie, The Apparition pads things out with ten minutes of credits, interrupted by inexplicable shots of power lines.

5. 2016: Obama's America - Now, before you go labeling me partisan, allow me to say that personal politics have nothing to do with this anti-Obama documentary's inclusion here. Yes, I'm a Democrat, but I also love good political discourse and am willing to hear out those whose views oppose my own. I'm putting 2016 here because it's a thoroughly inept doc. Director Dinesh D'Souza tries to paint the picture of what America will be like after Obama's second term. He doesn't have any facts to back this prognostication up, so he simply manufactures things out of thin air. D'Souza's big claim is that Obama has an anti-Colonial agenda that he inherited from his father – the same father he reportedly only saw once in the years following his parents' divorce. The director points to the fact that Obama titled his book “Dreams from My Father instead of “Dreams of My Father” as proof. With this kind of unsustainable logic, there's little for D'Souza to do but to speculate wildly and to needlessly, egotistically insert himself into the film at every possible turn.

4. The Devil Inside - The first movie released in 2012 is also one of the worst. Exemplifying the found footage conceit at its worst, this lame horror flick trafficked in all the same woman-getting-possessed-by-Satan cliches that have been around since The Exorcist, finding nothing at all new to do with them. Most infuriatingly, in lieu of a conclusion, the movie ends abruptly after a mere 74 minutes, then directs you to a website to find out what happened next. If that isn't the ultimate in ripoffs, I don't know what is.

3. That's My Boy - Adam Sandler finds the damnedest things funny. His movies almost always contain fat jokes, gay jokes, and bodily fluid jokes. His latest, though, goes right over the edge. Sandler plays a guy who got his teacher pregnant as a teenager; years later, he tracks down his now-grown son (Andy Samberg) in an effort to convince him to appear on a tabloid TV program. In addition to a premise that centers around statutory rape, every single scene in this pathetic comedy seems to include a reference to penises. The low point – and this is a minor spoiler for those of you crazy enough to want to see this movie anyway – involves Samberg finding out that his fiancee has been cheerfully engaging in an incestuous relationship with her brother. Statutory rape and incest – two things Sandler and his “creative” team apparently think are a laugh riot.

2. Last Ounce of Courage - You know those people who claim there's a “War on Christmas” even though Christmas decorations can be found in public everywhere and the birth of Jesus is considered a federal holiday for which most people get off work? Yeah, well, this is a movie for those nuts. When Christmas decorations are outlawed in the town square, a disgruntled biker sets out to forcibly bring his religion back to the populace. Last Ounce of Courage is filled with hypocrisy (it says it's wrong to jam your beliefs down others' throats, even as it celebrates the hero for doing just that), racism and bigotry (the two main bad guys are an African-American and a homosexual), and amateurish filmmaking (the finale involves – are you sitting down? – the Slow Clap!). An independent distributor released this piece of garbage on 1,400 screens in September, with a ringing endorsement from Chuck Norris. It earned a whopping $3.3 million. If you ask me, that's $3.2 million too much.

And my choice for the Worst Film of 2012 is:

Project X
1. Project X - The opening line of my original review was: “If Project X was a person, I'd kick it in the balls as hard as I could.” I'd forgotten that I wrote those words, but boy, do I ever remember feeling the sentiment! Aside from being another exhausting found footage movie, this teen comedy lacked even a basic story. Following the exploits of three doofus teenagers throwing a house party gone increasingly wild, the movie pads its running time with endless montages of adolescents engaging in risk-taking behavior, as if watching someone chug beer or puke in the bushes is in itself hilarious. That stuff is just painfully boring. What earns Project X its status as the worst film of the year is its abundance of terrible messages for the young audience at which it is aimed. The primary “message” is that whatever you have to sacrifice to be cool in high school is totally worth it, even if it screws up your future. What a depressing idea to convey to teens. (If your life is peaking in high school, you've got bigger problems.) A secondary, but equally offensive, message is aimed at girls: there's no point in being strong or sensible when you can be some jackass's eye candy instead. Unfunny, loathsome, and thoroughly detestable, Project X isn't just the worst film of 2012, but also one of the worst films of the last decade.

So there you have it – ten terrible cinematic atrocities. As always, I hope you have not had to suffer through any of them. Let us never speak of these titles again. Now, on to 2013....

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