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Films of 2013: The D-List (#110-86)

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These 25 films teeter precariously on a precipice: some have a few saving graces that kept them from slipping down to the F-list ... while others are just a few niptucks away from being mediocre, or even good.

But across the board, these D-list films are not worth the 46 total hours required to watch all 25 of these movies.

#110: 'The Fifth Estate'
#110: 'The Fifth Estate' Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

#110: 'The Fifth Estate'

'The Fifth Estate' (watch the trailer)

Fiction often takes creative license in making the mundane exciting.

'The Fifth Estate' lacks the creative spark to make this already interesting story even a little enjoyable.

This by-the-numbers biopic manages to suck all the excitement and intrigue from the story of one of the most controversial news figures of the past decade.

But even this flat, rather boring, film might be higher on this list if it didn't absolutely spell out the film's themes in a broad manner that should vaguely insult this movie's audience. 

DVD/Blu-ray release date: January 28

#109: 'Lovelace'
#109: 'Lovelace' Radius-TWC

#109: 'Lovelace'

'Lovelace' (watch the trailer)

This odd biopic is less about the star of 'Deep Throat' than it is about the emergence of the porn industry.

Amanda Seyfried is only able to breathe some amount of dimension into Linda Lovelace in the film's closing scenes - but it's too little, too late for this very obvious and shallow flick.

Just about every character is too arch and it's narrative is too broad to be very emotionally effective. 

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray and Netflix Instant.

#108: 'Arthur Newman'
#108: 'Arthur Newman' Cinedigm Entertainment

#108: 'Arthur Newman'

'Arthur Newman' (watch the trailer)

Yet another film that squanders an intriguing premise and just sputters about for 90 minutes.

The thesis of a man who fakes his death to take on a brand new identity is interesting - but that's exactly as far as 'Arthur Newman' takes the idea.

This film lacks any structure: it's amoeba-like shape just leads the narrative here, then takes its main characters over there ... and then just sort of ends. 

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray and Netflix Instant.

#107: 'Ginger & Rosa'
#107: 'Ginger & Rosa' A24

#107: 'Ginger & Rosa'

'Ginger & Rosa' (watch the trailer)

Although a very solid cast maintains nuanced performances from beginning to end, this film's narrative itself is anything but nuanced or subtle.

This potentially beautiful film about two childhood friends growing apart completely unravels as the film progresses. By the end, 'Ginger & Rosa' simply devolves into a series of random, over-the-top soap opera-like plot points that betray the film's artful, nuanced first scenes.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#106: 'Mama'
#106: 'Mama' Universal Pictures

#106: 'Mama'

'Mama' (watch the trailer)

The pure awesomeness of Jessica Chastain bumps up the score of this poorly edited film.

Chastain is the emotional engine that pushes 'Mama' forward. An actress of any less skill or nuance could not put an entire paranormal horror flick on her back as well as Chastain. Her role is incredibly important as the reluctant maternal figure who must face a relentless and jealous maternal figure.

But unfortunately, 'Mama' suffers from some very choppy editing, which is critical to a film's pacing and can drastically affect the narrative. Some truly terrifying moments aren't afforded enough room to breath and inject a genuinely threatening tone to the film.

As is the case with many horror flicks, the third act of 'Mama' devolves a satisfying paranormal story into just another monster sequence.

With a few niptucks, pruned story points and smoother storytelling, 'Mama' could easily jumped many places higher on his list.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#105: 'Last Vegas'
#105: 'Last Vegas' CBS Films

#105: 'Last Vegas'

'Last Vegas' (watch the trailer)

It's obvious the film's title was brainstormed first, then a 'story' was reverse-engineered to legitimize the corny title.

This geriatric comedy hybrid of 'The Bucket List' and 'The Hangover' takes no risks and lightly shuffles from scene to scene.

A large percentage of the jokes fall into one of two buckets: 'gee, aren't these guys old?' or 'gee, aren't all these whipper snappers around these old guys NOT old?' Prepare for a wealth of punchlines involving naps, hemorrhoids, Cialis and old men running/shuffling. This might as well be a film about four very confused aliens dropped right onto the Vegas Strip.

The one-sheet poster alone - packed with four well-known stars - will likely attract some faction of undiscriminating moviegoers. 'Last Vegas' isn't necessarily a horrible movie - but everything about it is very safe. And in trying to be safe, 'Last Vegas' ends up being a very vanilla comedy rife with plenty of easy/unearned chuckles.

DVD/Blu-ray release date: January 28

#104: 'The Last Stand'
#104: 'The Last Stand' Lionsgate

#104: 'The Last Stand'

'The Last Stand' (watch the trailer)

For a throwback action flick, reminiscent of classic Schwarzenegger flicks, 'The Last Stand' doesn't commit any serious movie crimes - aside from being pretty stupid.

This 'old Arnold takes on bad guys' movie falls into a category of movies that are tolerable if, and only if, you're able to turn off your brain. Characters are shot, blown up and stabbed. The dialogue is cheesy. The entire premise is crazy.

Again, 'The Last Stand' isn't terrible - it's just so stupid and content in its silliness that it cannot reasonably rank higher than #104 on this list. 

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#103: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'
#103: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' New Line Cinema

#103: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'

'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' (watch the trailer)

The stunning Olivia Wilde is the most entertaining and funny character in 'Burt Wonderstone.' Her comedic timing is superb and she proves she can hold her own as the straight man to a cast of insanely silly characters.

But as wonderful as Wilde is, the fact that she - a character who might be in one-third of the film - is the comedic star of 'Wonderstone' says volumes about the rest of the cast and film overall.

Neither Steve Carell nor Jim Carrey ever rise to the comedic occasion or justify their statuses as A-list comedy stars. Their characters are odd and goofy, but just not particularly funny.

Not very much of 'Wonderstone' feels in the least magical or incredible.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#102: 'The To Do List'
#102: 'The To Do List' CBS Films

#102: 'The To Do List'

'The To Do List' (watch the NSFW Red Band trailer)

This 90s-era comedy is essentially a girl version of 'American Pie,' only way less charming.

Remember how crazy the '90s were? If not, 'The To-Do List' will commit the crime that many flimsy 'period' movies do: shoehorn too many unnecessary pop culture references that never advance the story and only come off as snide jabs at the lameness of yesteryear. Movies stuck in VHS players, Trapper Keepers, 'Me So Horny,' skorts and other '90s era trappings take up far too many minutes in this already bloated running time.

Unfortunately, the one joke about dated '90s technology that would have worked and also justified the entire movie's setting is glossed over very quickly. The main character's entire reason for her list is to learn about sexuality before college - and her only resource in 1993 is either the library or personal experience. 'The To-Do List' wouldn't have worked if it was set in 2013 - a modern day Brandy could have just googled her way to a functional knowledge of the carnal. Sadly, this is all explained away in one-throwaway line, yet a ton of other 'wasn't 1993 wacky' gags made the final cut.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#101: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'
#101: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Paramount Pictures

#101: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' (watch the trailer)

The 'G.I. Joe' sequel is a series of set pieces cobbled together with a bizarrely uneven plot, clunky storytelling and almost-zero dimension characters who are minimized down to codenames.

At least the very cartoony 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' established even the smallest amount of personality between the characters. This time around, there's the katana-weilding Snake-Eyes and everyone else is an interchangeable, machine-gun firing member of the 'Joe' squad.

A perfect 'G.I. Joe' adaptation would combine the serial, mission-based plot of 'Retaliation' with the cartoony love for the characters in the original film.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#100: 'The Bling Ring'
#100: 'The Bling Ring' A24

#100: 'The Bling Ring'

'The Bling Ring' (watch the trailer)

The latest offering from Oscar-nominated director Sofia Coppola is one of the stupidest smart films of the recent era.

'The Bling Ring' attempts to skewer a lazy generation of kids who are simultaneously fascinated with celebrities but who are also not motivated at all in putting in the work to become accomplished. So these kids literally steal the lifestyle.

But 'The Bling Ring' horribly executes this social commentary with annoying characters who are impossible to care about. Making matters worse, there's nobody to root for or care about at all. This is a real problem since it minimizes the human consequences of burglary on the victims.

'The Bling Ring,' unfortunately, focuses only on the thieves - who are largely unapologetic, manipulative or generally unsympathetic - and the consequences on their lives.

The end product is a mess of one-dimensional valley girls in a story that is neither dramatic or intelligent satire.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#99: 'The Iceman'
#99: 'The Iceman' Millennium Films

#99: 'The Iceman'

'The Iceman' (watch the trailer)

More proof that biopics are generally unfocused messes: 'The Iceman.'

The main character - an infamous mob hitman reported to have killed more than 100 people - has one dimension. And it's conveyed through the constant grimace on his face from beginning to end.

Trying to build an entire film around one flat character is quite the challenge - and 'The Iceman' fails due to its odd story choices and needless b-plots. The only vaguely interesting characters are side characters - most of whom are completely unnecessary to central plot.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#98: 'Jobs'
#98: 'Jobs' Open Road Films

#98: 'Jobs'

'Jobs' (watch the trailer)

This Ashton Kutcher take on the Apple founder is clearly more interested in hitting important events in Apple's history than telling a one man's story.

This biopic covers long time periods, which usually requires huge time jumps and causing abrupt, jagged story flow. Iconic characters have dialogue limited to their most quotable sound bites, which results in characters speaking in forced monologues. A revolving door of supporting characters magically show up and unceremoniously disappear just as quickly as the film moves through the years.

Dialogue is often pure exposition as characters explain condition changes - again, the result of trying to cram years worth of real world history into 120 minutes. It becomes more about exchanging information and less about telling a story that fundamentally changes

'Jobs' is not the film Steve Jobs deserved. 

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#97: 'Red 2'
#97: 'Red 2' Summit Entertainment

#97: 'Red 2'

'Red 2' (watch the trailer)

This inoffensive action-comedy is also forgettable and inferior to the original, fun 'Red.' This is exactly the type of movie any channel surfer would stumble upon and watch for a while -- but somehow not be able to give a good plot synopsis for 'Red 2.'

Bruce Willis is clearly going through the paces of yet another action 'kill waves of faceless bad guys' movie. Just about every other actor seems to be having fun with their characters - but Willis's bored, sour and apathetic tone weighs down 'Red 2.'

'Red 2' is unremarkable in almost every way.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#96: 'Kick-Ass 2'
#96: 'Kick-Ass 2' Universal Pictures

#96: 'Kick-Ass 2'

'Kick-Ass 2' (watch the NSFW Red Band trailer)

Just about everything this sequel attempts to accomplish was executed better in the original 'Kick-Ass.' The only accomplishment of 'Kick-Ass 2' is in making its ultra-violent tone and disregard for characters seem almost mundane.

This movie wants to have its cake and eat it too. It strives to shock with extreme violence - but any movie packed with as much gore as 'Kick-Ass 2' cannot help but to slowly desensitize its audience to all the bloodshed. It also wants to shock by killing off important characters - but these characters often have very little screen time (minimizing their story significance) and too many of them are slaughtered to make their demises surprising.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#95: 'The Great Gatsby'
#95: 'The Great Gatsby' Warner Bros. Pictures

#95: 'The Great Gatsby'

'The Great Gatsby' (watch the trailer)

Baz Luhrmann's vision for this classic of American literature is a plodding, lifeless story wrapped in a beautiful looking piece of cinema.

'The Great Gatsby' is simply too long of a movie (approximately 2 hours, 23 minutes) to justify is minimal number of plot points and thin characters. Only Jay Gatsby himself has any real depth- most every other character is a one-dimensional tool with little more value than to move the story along.

While 'Gatsby' as a novel may have great value as a piece of literature, its more complex analysis of the excessive "Roaring '20s" is lost in the noise of an underwhelming 'love'/stalker story that, for some reason, was presented in full 3D.

It's never a great sign for any movie when its greatest strength is its pretty CGI effects.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#94: 'Oblivion'
#94: 'Oblivion' Universal Pictures

#94: 'Oblivion'

'Oblivion' (watch the trailer)

This Tom Cruise flick epitomizes lazy science fiction.

'Oblivion' is derivative of so many sci-fi elements (last man on Earth/alien attack/one last mission/everything you know is a lie) that this predictable and plodding flick barely has an identity of its own.

The highest compliment that can be paid to 'Oblivion' is how beautiful the film looks on the big screen. The impressive CGI and cinematography will look great in demo reels played on a loop at brick-and-mortar electronics stores.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#93: 'Admission'
#93: 'Admission' Focus Features

#93: 'Admission'

'Admission' (watch the trailer)

In trying to summarize 'Admission' in a one, or even two, sentence log line, it becomes suddenly clear that this confused film doesn't know what it is about.

Is it about the main character's attempts to succeed her retiring boss? Is it about her struggle with her childhood after possibly meeting the child she gave up to adoption years before? Is it a budding romance between an admissions officer and an unconventional high school educator? Is it about her trying to pick up the pieces of her life after being suddenly dumped by her boyfriend?

'Admission' tries to be all these things - and in doing so, presents a sloppily told story about an admissions officers who meets some people and does some things.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#92: 'We're the Millers'
#92: 'We're the Millers' Warner Bros. Pictures

#92: 'We're the Millers'

'We're the Millers' (watch the NSFW Red Band trailer)

It's not a great sign when the movie's biggest laugh comes from one of its outtakes (that plays during the end credits).

It's clear that many of the comedic sequences in 'We're the Millers' were written first - then the writers reverse-engineered the 'story' so they could shoehorn swollen testicles, swinging couples and fellatio bribery gags into something movie-ish.

Even the funniest parts of the 'Millers' are almost always throwaway one-liners from the characters. Comedy isn't simply characters saying funny things or having funny stuff happen to them. The best comedy comes from the characters and/or the situations.

The fact that Jason Sudeikis has a couple of hilarious non sequitur jokes is the only reason 'Millers' is not on the F-list.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#91: 'Bad Grandpa'
#91: 'Bad Grandpa' Paramount Pictures

#91: 'Bad Grandpa'

'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa' (watch the trailer)

The first three 'Jackass' movies worked because they were exactly as advertised: jackasses stupidly pulling off jackass stunts. This simplicity allowed them to focus solely on crafting insane bits - which is why all three 'Jackass' movies are hilarious.

But the story arc that is supposed to legitimize 'Bad Grandpa' feels more like an excuse for non sequitur gags.

'Borat' proves that a series of vaguely-related scenes can be assembled together into a coherent and hilarious story. 'Grandpa' strives to tell the story of lonely old man and a neglected child - but these surprisingly dramatic moments are often poorly-acted scenes that considerably slow the film down.

'Bad Grandpa' isn't nearly as funny as it aims to be and its oddly dramatic moments are flat. While just about every stunt scene earns a good chuckle, the truly hilarious moments are too sparse to call 'Grandpa' hilarious overall.

DVD/Blu-ray release date: January 28

#90: '2 Guns'
#90: '2 Guns' Universal Pictures

#90: '2 Guns'

'2 Guns' (watch the trailer)

Nothing about '2 Guns' is fresh, original or creative.

This generic buddy cop flick is just built from the lesser parts of classic cop, shoot-em-ups from years past.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#89: 'Now You See Me'
#89: 'Now You See Me' Summit Entertainment

#89: 'Now You See Me'

'Now You See Me' (watch the trailer)

This entire film is a slight of hand trick.

Large scale and impressive heist sequences serve as the distraction. They are great eye candy and a sight to behold as they happen.

But the sad truth to this illusion many of the characters have very little depth to them. Even worse, their journey or goal has no apparent dimension.

'Now You See Me' is fun, just so long as you're looking to enjoy the ride and not examine the story's framework in any great detail.

Once you get past the spectacle of the 'how did they do that?' heist sequences, what's left is a winding, nonsensical journey made by four master thieves/magicians who lack much substance.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#88: 'Evil Dead'
#88: 'Evil Dead' TriStar Pictures

#88: 'Evil Dead'

'Evil Dead' (watch the trailer)

It's impossible to talk about the 'Evil Dead' without acknowledging the beloved, campy, 1981 classic. The original was a charming, tension-filled, creative bit of film. The reboot is brutally violent movie packed with 'jump-out-of-your-seat' moments. Comparing the 1981 original with the 2013 reboot is unfair, as the two films share only a core story - the original was a patient horror flick wracked with tension while this reboot is chiefly concerned with creating a credible, violent, undeniable evil.

'Evil Dead' reboot succeeds with great production value, well-developed characters, improved overall story ... but it falters with an abrupt change of protagonists late in the third act, an unclear explanation of what is at stake with the 'Abomination' and unfortunately, in ratcheting up the violence to 11, feeling much like many other modern slasher horror flicks.

In the end, the Sam Raimi 'Evil Dead' has endured because its low-budget effects are charming, its evil was entertaining/original and its tone was self aware of the genre and all the baggage of horror tropes. Although the reboot is a more beautiful, polished looking vision of the 'Evil Dead,' it will not remain timeless simply because it looks and sounds like so many modern slashers in theaters today.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#87: 'Pain & Gain'
#87: 'Pain & Gain' Paramount Pictures

#87: 'Pain & Gain'

'Pain & Gain' (watch the NSFW Red Band trailer)

For a long time 'The Rock' was undeniably Michael Bay's best movie - but 'Pain & Gain' is the first legitimate contender to that title in years.

Dwayne Johnson proves he is not simply a pile of muscles - the man has incredibly charisma and comedic timing in this action-comedy. Mark Wahlberg also proves he can pull double duty as a buffoonish bodybuilder/driven kidnapper.

Bay deserves some credit for telling a pretty dark crime story about a trio of idiot kidnappers - who eventually commit some very grisly crimes - and somehow keeping the tone light and the main characters somewhat charming.

All that said, 'Pain & Gain' has too many distractions in its narrative that get in the way of telling a clean story. The sheer number of these distractions ultimately impair the film's pace -- but most of these asides are also low-brow in nature (ie: dildos, midgets, etc).

While surprisingly likable, 'Pain & Gain' is hurt by just flat-out poor storytelling.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#86: 'The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug'
#86: 'The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug' Warner Bros. Pictures

#86: 'The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug'

'The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug' (watch the trailer)

Only the most hardcore Peter Jackson fan can justify this tortuously drawn out 'Hobbit' sequel.

'Desolation' is hard to summarize primarily because it doesn't have a story arch: there's no beginning, middle or resolution. Basically, Bilbo and dwarves just bounce from one predicament to the next. First it's a bear, then some spiders, then some Elves and finally a big dragon.

Instead of using the lengthy 161-minute running time of 'Desolation' to flesh out the film's army of characters, this film opts for silly, lengthy action sequences instead of actual storytelling.

'Desolation of Smaug' proves there's absolutely no need for the 'Hobbit' series to be stretched across a trilogy of 2.5 hour movies. Jackson's bloated assembly of dim-witted 'dwarves running/orcs chasing/elves killing' scenes should be a direct insult to the master fantasy storyteller J. R. R. Tolkien.

Currently in theaters

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