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The Chico Movie Examiner's picks for the 10 worst films of 2013

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Many of you will probably scroll through this list and wonder why films like “Movie 43”; “A Haunted House”; “Scary Movie 5”; “The Lone Ranger”; “After Earth”; and others are not featured. Honestly, I didn’t see them.

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This past year, I was watching and reviewing more VOD and direct-to-DVD releases than ones released to theaters. There’s nothing wrong with either release method, and some of the VOD and direct-to-DVD films I saw actually weren’t that bad. Some I actually liked, including “Last Love”; “Bounty Killer”; and “Crave.” But there were some very bad ones, too, and those deserve a worst of the year list of their own.

But I’m not going to waste my time making another list. So, here are some dishonorable mentions you’ve most likely never heard of, and with which you shouldn’t bother wasting your time:

Butcher Boys”; “The Snow Queen”; “Our Wild Hearts”; “Scavengers”; “Frat Brothers”; “Cheech and Chong’s Animated Movie”; and “Aberration.”

Now, these 10 films consist of a few dumb comedies; a wildly disappointing sequel to one of the greatest action franchises of all time; and a horror film that many praised, but I thought was way, way, way overrated.

10. “The Conjuring”

Frankly, “The Conjuring” is on my worst of the year list, because there was so much hype behind it being “the scariest movie in years.” Apparently, I didn’t see the same movie others did. I do enjoy a good scare. Last year’s “Sinister” really got me, even though I wasn’t sold on the ending.

It may have been the hype that killed “The Conjuring” for me. When I finally watched it, I saw a boring rehash of a story that’s been told many, many times before. I kept waiting and waiting for at least one good scare and got nothing. Instead, I got complete boredom, stale acting, and one cliche after another.

9. “Identity Thief”

I liked Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat,” even if she did toss around a few too many F-bombs. As for her other film released this year, “Identity Thief,” that’s another story. McCarthy is forced to repeat the same shtick of running away and giving Jason Bateman the middle finger. The two spend most of the film throwing insults and physical products at each other and running from some gangsters. And I was wondering why I was still watching.

8. “Gangster Squad”

Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) shows that he could make a film noir with the stylish set pieces and wardrobe. But “Gangster Squad” is a waste of good talent; good set designs; good wardrobe; and everything else. Even as something trying to pass off as good old, shoot-em-up entertainment, the film is a total bore. The action scenes are unimaginative and dull, and the actors – some being prior Oscar winners and nominees – don’t even give their best effort. Sean Penn chews every one of his scenes as villain Mickey Cohen, while Ryan Gosling doesn’t seem interested in the film at all – even when he tells Emma Stone’s character: “I was just hoping to take you to bed.”

7. “The East” (review)

Another title for this could be “Dances with Anarchists.” “The East” is a smug film that lacks a coherent position. We’re not sure if we should root for the main character, played by Brit Marling, or for everyone in The East. Director Zal Batmanglij takes the “Dances with Wolves” formula and applies it here. It becomes difficult to side with these characters who think the only way they can be satisfied is by doing terrible things to the people who are doing terrible things.

6. “The Family” (review)

Hey, look. It’s Robert De Niro doing another gangster comedy. But this time, he’s teamed up with director Luc Besson (“The Professional”), who has never worked in comedy before. And it shows. “The Family” is a mean-spirited film that is nearly devoid of humor, and the wonderful cast look bored throughout the film.

5. “The Host”

Can Stephanie Meyer tell a story that isn’t a love triangle? Apparently not. And “The Host” is proof of that. Saoirse Ronan, who’s been great throughout her career, is stuck in a lame-brained script that calls for her to argue with herself. And just when you think something might happen, nothing ever does. “The Host” is a major snoozefest.

4. “Rushlights” (review)

Antoni Stutz wants to make a noir film, but his characters are as dumb as those in a horror film. “Rushlights” also goes for extreme close-ups way too many times, and it also wants to fiddle with viewer’s mind a bit more than it should. Beau Bridges and Aidan Quinn could do well as corrupt brothers in another film, but not in “Rushlights.”

3. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”

I enjoyed “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” to the point when it became too serious and boring. There’s nothing wrong with taking an historical figure and putting a fun spin on it, as long as it’s done right. That being said, there’s also nothing wrong putting a twist on a classic fairy tale. But “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” doesn’t even try to be a fun watch. OK, it tries, but the result is a miserable failure. Hansel is diabetic, because of all the candy given to him as a child, and he has to inject himself with insulin every now and then. That’s a nice, pretentious way of telling kids not to overdose on sugary sweets. But the filmmakers also kind of forget about that fact until a very crucial moment in the movie (of course). The action scenes are bland, and it was certainly made for 3D with all of these things popping out of the screen. But I watched it at home and didn’t get to have the “pleasure” of having stuff fly toward my face – probably for the better, too. And this was produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Yes, the same ones who run What?!?

2. “A Good Day to Die Hard

Watching the fifth installment of the “Die Hard” franchise felt like the filmmakers were giving the audience one big middle finger during the entire 97-minute runtime. Yes, it’s that short. Why can’t it be over two hours like the others? I love the “Die Hard” films – yes, even “Live Free or Die Hard.” But “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the most ridiculous installment of the franchise and one of the biggest letdowns ever. John McClane gets treated like a cartoon character by being thrown around like a ragdoll; dropped through levels of plank wood; and jumping out of an exploding helicopter and falling through glass into a pool. And he doesn’t get a scratch on him. Plus, the action is all done via CGI. What a lousy excuse of a “Die Hard” film and of an action film, too.

1. Approaching Midnight” (review)

I was given a screener of this film, because the director is apparently a fan of my blog. The PR representative said he (the director) wanted me to give an “honest review” of his new film, “Approaching Midnight.” I did. A few days later, I receive an e-mail from the director asking me to remove it from my site because it caused “so much strife” to those involved with making the film and their friends and family. He didn’t want me to change my opinion; he just wanted the review removed.

It turns out I was the only person sent a screener for review purposes upon the film’s initial limited release. And for a brief period of time, my review was the only one out there. Needless to say, the review is still published.

Let this be a lesson to prospective filmmakers: If you can’t take constructive criticism, whether it’s told to you in person or via a critic’s review, you shouldn’t be making films.

With all that said, I don’t think this is the worst film of the year because of that incident. I think it’s the worst film of the year, because it is a hackneyed film. It starts with credits that make it seem like an action film – only to turn into a crime drama. It shows one action shot, and then the scene gets rewound and shown again like it was a highlight reel. The flashback sequences are horribly nauseating and happen far too often; the directing is extremely poor; and the acting is non-existent. I have nothing against the filmmakers or anyone else involved in the project. I wish them well in the future. But “Approaching Midnight” is the absolute worst film of 2013.

What was your least favorite film in 2013? Share in the comments section below.


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