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Films of 2013: The F-List (#135-111)

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'Bad' films are not arbitrarily bad. Many are bad simply because they are poorly told stories, have shallow characters or lack confidence in their film's premise.

Many of the films on this list have the promise of being great, compelling stories - but somewhere along the line, the filmmakers made storytelling decisions that crippled these stories. And some of the movies listed here are simply flat out stupid.

But whatever the reason, these 25 films found themselves on the F-list of 2013 movies.

#135: 'Syrup'
#135: 'Syrup' Magnolia Pictures

#135: 'Syrup'

'Syrup' (watch the trailer)

This cynical take on marketing is less satirical than it is a poorly-scripted mess. If every bit of IQ and wit was surgically removed from 'Mad Men,' the result would be 'Syrup.'

This film can be summarized with one simple phrase: 'Marketing is all about image.' Not an earth-shattering thesis for any film - and it's poorly executed in 'Syrup.'

A toxic combination of poor exposition dialogue, an antagonist who does NOTHING on-screen, too many pivotal plot points that occur off screen and a terrible leading actor make 'Syrup' a tough screening.

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

#134: 'At Any Price'
#134: 'At Any Price' Sony Pictures Classics

#134: 'At Any Price'

'At Any Price' (watch the trailer)

A dramatic film about a father fighting to keep the family business alive and a son who wants adventure - sprinkling elements of the modern agricultural industry - might have been interesting.

But 'At Any Price' is not that movie - this is a film with virtually no sympathetic characters that takes a very extreme plot turn in the third act.

The father and son characters are despicable people and who, in retrospect, are the protagonists of their story, but villains to the all their community. And the third act plot turn is not only random and needless - it's also the obvious cop out for the writers to get their protagonists to the ending they wanted.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#133: '47 Ronin'
#133: '47 Ronin' Universal Pictures

#133: '47 Ronin'

'47 Ronin' (watch the trailer)

Ostensibly this movie is about '47 Ronin' ... but really only one has any sort of character (and he's played by Keanu Reeves ... *shudder*). The other 46 ronin are one-dimensional shells running around with Japanese swords.

The filmmakers also assumed the true story of samurai honor and revenge was exciting enough - so they added a bunch of GCI monsters, witches and other cartoony nonsense.

And even after narrowing down the film to one man and making it a special effects cartoon - '47 Ronin' is surprisingly an incredible bore.

The final insult to injury: most of its screenings are in 3D - so moviegoers who leave 'Ronin' paid a premium to watch a bad movie and worse 3D.

Currently in theaters.

 

#132: 'The Hangover: Part III'
#132: 'The Hangover: Part III' Warner Bros. Pictures

#132: 'The Hangover: Part III'

'The Hangover: Part III' (watch the trailer)

The only redeeming aspect of 'Part III' is this deteriorating franchise is over.

In deliberately trying not to be a retread of the first two 'Hangover' films, 'Part III' tries to be a road trip, heist, crime adventure -- but fails at succeeding at any one of these genres.

What's worse, however, is the trio of main characters are especially hard to care about this time around. Phil and Stu vacillate between extremely annoyed and extremely frustrated - while the antics of the increasingly unstable Alan reach maddening new heights. A solid argument could be made that Alan is one of the film's antagonists.

Instead of closing out the 'Hangover' franchise on a high note, 'Part III' only leaves a bitter aftertaste that makes audiences thankful they won't have to sit though another joyless Wolfpack adventure.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#131: 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones'
#131: 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' Screen Gems

#131: 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones'

'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' (watch the trailer)

So much of this film is what's wrong with the young adult fantasy genre.

Great films establish characters and settings - not just explain and explain and endlessly explain the film's world. 'City of Bones' is cluttered with exposition dialogue, where characters talk and talk and talk about this supernatural world's mythology. It's a lot of fantasy mumbo jumbo that has minimal pay off and rarely advances the story.

And if the film isn't endlessly talking about the 'Mortal Instruments' mythology, it's introducing 'important' characters -- who have too little screen time to connect with any of them.

And why is this film called the 'City of Bones'!? There's exactly one scene that takes place in the City of Bones -- and it has almost no bearing on the story's resolution.

This is somehow a dumber version of 'Twilight' - that may or may not involve a super inappropriate romantic relationship.

For a film about demons, vampires, werewolves and demon hunters, 'City of Bones' is incredibly boring.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

Fun fact: The is the first of three films on my F-list starring Lily Collins.

#130: 'R.I.P.D.'
#130: 'R.I.P.D.' Universal Pictures

#130: 'R.I.P.D.'

'R.I.P.D.' (watch the trailer)

Everything about 'R.I.P.D' is lazy.

Apparently the afterlife needs a squad of dead law men to police and capture thousands of dead souls who remain on Earth. Why and how are they still on Earth? Meh, who cares?!

Need to paralyze dozens of undead police officers - there's some of concussive grenade for that. Of course it won't affect bad undead folk - just the ones who need paralyzing. Why? Meh, some throwaway line will explain away this handy tool.

Unlike 'City of Bones,' this supernatural silliness does little to explain the logic behind anything going on in this story. But at least 'R.I.P.D.' has Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (not that they save this bizarre, unoriginal mess).

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#129: 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters'
#129: 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' Paramount Pictures

#129: 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters'

'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' (watch the trailer)

This action-supernatural flick's greatest flaw is its lack of conviction - it's not fun enough to be an enjoyable adventure, not sly enough to be a self-aware spoof nor scary enough to be a horror flick.

In trying to be all these things, 'Witch Hunters' fails to be fun, sly or scary enough with much success.

The one thing it does well is look very cheap: bad CGI and 80s-era makeup and masks give 'Witch Hunters' a very dated/frugal aesthetic.

All that said, this film has a compact 87-min running time, which makes it perfectly OK as a throwaway, brainless shoot-em-up.

#128: 'The English Teacher'
#128: 'The English Teacher' Cinedigm Entertainment

#128: 'The English Teacher'

'The English Teacher' (watch the trailer)

It's unclear what this odd high school story is supposed to be: a comedy, drama or some hybrid? The problem is 'The English Teacher' lacks many funny moments and its dramatic arch is confused and underdeveloped.

The problem is the wondering, unfocused screenplay. The story has no clear arch. Many plot points are based on incredible convenient coincidences. And there are several unnecessary characters and b-plots.

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

Fun fact: this is the second film starring Lily Collins on my F-list. She has to fire her agent.

#127: 'Girls Against Boys'
#127: 'Girls Against Boys' Anchor Bay Entertainment

#127: 'Girls Against Boys'

'Girls Against Boys' (watch the trailer)

The revenge fantasy premise isn't bad -- but to make it work, the film has to make its protagonists justified and sympathetic to make the inevitable bloodbath palatable.

But the main problem with 'Girls Against Boys' is a good number of men are killed - but it could be easily argued that only one of their victims definitely deserved a death sentence. The rest are killed for reasons that include jealousy, infidelity, being creepy or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A film centered on a pair of killers absolutely must make the killers absolutely justified - morally, business or otherwise - in their murder spree. Otherwise they are just killers slaughtering folk.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#126: 'Broken City'
#126: 'Broken City' 20th Century Fox

#126: 'Broken City'

'Broken City' (watch the trailer)

'Broken City' is an ill-constructed throwback to the old gumshoe detective films -- but without the intrigue or mystique of the classic noir films.

The larger pieces of this political/crime mystery puzzle never fit together quite right, which ultimately results in a flat/'eh' moment when the full picture is finally laid out.

Further muddying the water are a ton of superfluous details that are introduced but never played out to their full extent or have much consequence. For example: the hero's sobriety, the entire arch with his girlfriend or a politician's secret relationship. These tantalizing/promising story threads do not develop story line or substantially alter any of the characters.

The final conflict/revelation feels very manufactured rather than a genuine tactical move by the villain. In the end, this mystery isn't very fun to unravel.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#125: 'Gangster Squad'
#125: 'Gangster Squad' Warner Bros. Pictures

#125: 'Gangster Squad'

'Gangster Squad' (watch the trailer)

'Gangster Squad' is a cartoonishly uber-violent 'Untouchables' knockoff, but with 50-60 fewer IQ points.

Everyone you think dies does die - usually a violent death. A film this predictable isn't entertaining or fun enough to offset its obvious narrative. Major leaps of logic or narrative are made just so 'Squad' hits its obligatory plot points. The all-star cast seems in a daze as they go through the motions of an unoriginal gangster flick.

Basically 'Squad' is an excuse to have late '40s era renegade-ish cops mow down wave-after-wave of stupid mobsters who all have the firing accuracy of a Stormtrooper.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#124: 'Oz the Great and Powerful'
#124: 'Oz the Great and Powerful' Walt Disney Studios

#124: 'Oz the Great and Powerful'

'Oz the Great and Powerful' (watch the trailer)

The original 'Wizard of Oz' is considered a timeless classic largely in part to its very simple structure: Dorothy and her companions must defeat a witch in order for the Wizard to grant their sincere wishes.

The unnecessary 'Oz the Great and Powerful' does almost the exact opposite of that winning formula.

Oz, as a man, is flawed to the point of becoming difficult to root for him. He has a vague, flip-flopping agenda. His journey meanders here and there throughout the nonsense land of Oz. There's some unsatisfying ambiguity regarding who is the story's true antagonist.

Add to that some questionable dialogue, a miscast James Franco and some very bad green-screen/CGI acting and the result is a prequel that never should have seen the light of day.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#123: 'The Internship'
#123: 'The Internship' 20th Century Fox

#123: 'The Internship'

'The Internship' (watch the trailer)

The Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson reunion isn't offensively bad - but this alleged 'comedy' attempts a heartfelt story ... but is unfortunately light on laughs and plagued by an uninspired story. 

'The Internship' is, first and foremost, an unrelenting, two-hour commercial for all things Google. It's as if the writers first came up with a list of 'cool' Google tools to feature, then they forced a "story" around these plot points.

Second, while the script aims to be either funny or heartwarming, many of the jokes fall flat and much of the dialogue sounds like it is ripped directly off of earnest motivational posters.

There are single scenes in 'The Wedding Crashers' that are funnier than the entirety of 'The Internship.'

#122: 'Upside Down'
#122: 'Upside Down' Millennium Entertainment

#122: 'Upside Down'

'Upside Down' (watch the trailer)

At some point in this silly sci-fi romance flick, a character deliberately explains 'all we have to do is carefully mix the two solutions.' He then immediately proceeds to mix the two fluids vigorously together like he's working a martini shaker.

It's this type of inattentiveness to dialogue, action and its own ridiculous laws of physics that makes 'Upside Down' difficult to buy into as either credible sci-fi or endearing romance.

Any film that starts off with 7 minutes of pure exposition voiceover starts with one foot in its own sci-fi grave. 'Upside Down' puts its other foot in the grave wrapping its own convoluted sci-fi premise with a thin story and even more meager screenplay.

Like all bad science fiction, 'Upside Down' is obviously more impressed with its own camera moves and playing with its sci-fi rules than telling a compelling story. The exposition-laden script allows very little room for any sort of nuanced acting. The main couple share very little screen time together or interacting at all.

In over explaining the sci-fi rules of this world ad nauseum and under-developing a credible love between these two 'star crossed lovers,' the result is a bad sci-fi movie with a thin love story.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#121: 'Aftershock'
#121: 'Aftershock' RADiUS-TWC

#121: 'Aftershock'

'Aftershock' (watch the trailer)

The half hour 'Aftershock' takes to getting into the real meat of the story is a really long wind up.

The concept of a natural disaster-horror flick is intriguing - but the execution is lazy. Basically this is just a slasher, except falling buildings do a fair share of dismembering.

And like all bad slashers, everyone you think dies, does die. After if random death wasn't a bad enough threat, 'Aftershock' makes it quick clear who deserves to die because those characters are usually jerks. You know - because jerks deserve to die more than other people.

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

#120: 'Identity Thief'
#120: 'Identity Thief' Universal Pictures

#120: 'Identity Thief'

'Identity Thief' (watch the trailer)

A common trait of many bad movies is having so little faith in its core premise that it feels the need to fill up its running time with useless clutter.

A film about a bland man and a reckless scam artist could have been a fun character comedy. But instead, the filmmakers of 'Identity Theft' had so little confidence in the film's core that they packed it with unnecessary car chases, shoot outs, bounty hunters and hit men.

None of this clutter successfully adds any story tension or laughs in this supposed comedy.

Jason Bateman's character has no clear character arch - he's simply a straight man in an unfunny comedy. Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy's character has too much story arch - she is given a whole backstory, pathos and redemption arch that never feels organic and only feels forced.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#119: 'Touchy Feely'
#119: 'Touchy Feely' Magnolia Pictures

#119: 'Touchy Feely'

'Touchy Feely' (watch the trailer)

This half-formed idea of a story is why some people avoid indie flicks: too reliant on quirky characters and an intriguing premise - while not developing the characters or executing a meaningful story.

'Touchy Feely' is proof that indie flicks can't float by simply on an interesting premise. Even if a film has a great starting point (premise), it must have a competent follow-through to tell a compelling story ... otherwise the premise is wasted.

This film tries to tell three parallel stories about people awkwardly trying to connect - but only one of the stories has any amount of dramatic tension. The other two story lines just sort of drift around for the film's 90 minutes until the film stumbles across the finish line.

'Touchy Feely' is not for people who like stories that mean anything or say anything.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#118: 'Stuck in Love'
#118: 'Stuck in Love' Millennium Entertainment

#118: 'Stuck in Love'

'Stuck in Love' (watch the trailer)

Many aspects of this story are confusing - largely due to its bizarre screenplay and choppy editing.

This is a poorly told story. Scenes crash into each other - one moment a character is sad, the very next scene they are happy.

Not helping matters is the film's decision to try telling three parallel stories about a father, daughter and son struggling with love. Not one of these stories is a well told arch of love between characters. Too many plot points are out-of-the-blue revelations or seemingly random external events that not-too-subtly nudges the characters into making predictable decisions.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#117: 'Stand Up Guys'
#117: 'Stand Up Guys' Lionsgate

#117: 'Stand Up Guys'

'Stand Up Guys' (watch the trailer)

The core premise - a man who faces his last day of life and his best friend, who must kill him - could have been compelling and fun.

Instead, 'Stand Up Guys' pads its running time with cheap jokes and avoids forcing the characters into making difficult decisions.

Long and winding scenes are centered on erectile dysfunction pills and a man whose lifelong dream is to have sex with two girls at once. It's a very base level of 'humor' that is disappointing and witless.

Then there's the logic problems. The majority of this film takes place within an 8-hour timeframe - this becomes a problem when you consider everything they apparently cram into a reasonably short time frame. Simply put, it's not possible within the current laws of physics/space-time to do everything these two shuffling old guys get done between 2am and 10am.

'Stand Up Guys' has exactly two redeeming points: the chemistry between Walken and Pacino, and the final resolution. Everything else is either as boring as a visit to the old folks home or silly to a stupid degree. 

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

#116: 'Carrie'
#116: 'Carrie' Screen Gems

#116: 'Carrie'

'Carrie' (watch the trailer)

This might be the most pointless remake of all time.

The only difference between the original 'Carrie' and this remake is cell phones, text messaging and YouTube.

Oh - and Sissy Spacek's great performance. That is not found in this remake.

The obvious update/modernization would be to integrate anti-bullying themes - but nope, it's just a rehashing of the original, except with social media and CGI.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#115: 'Girl Most Likely'
#115: 'Girl Most Likely' Roadside Attractions

#115: 'Girl Most Likely'

'Girl Most Likely' (watch the trailer)

This small story about a once-hot playwright, who moves in with her mother after her life begins to fall apart, ends in a shoot out. And it makes almost no sense.

'Girl Most Likely' offers the main character almost no character arch. And in a misguided attempt to tell a quirky story, the film is packed with a cast of eccentric, uninteresting supporting characters.

There's very little reason why this story needed to be told.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#114: 'Sharknado'
#114: 'Sharknado' The Asylum

#114: 'Sharknado'

'Sharknado' (watch the trailer)

The fact that this cheaply made, poorly scripted, horribly acted B-flick is better than 36 movies on this list should be the measuring stick for the terribleness of the movies that ranked between #150-#116.

But at least 'Sharknado' has one thing those 36 films don't have: charm. The phrase 'so bad, it's good' is perfect for 'Sharknado' ... except that it's still not good on any level. It's a fun film to watch and laugh at - but this insane story about a shark vortex running amok through Los Angeles is still pretty bad on its own right.

At least 'Sharknado' is fun to watch on some level. So many other films are torturous and painful to suffer.

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

#113: 'The Purge'
#113: 'The Purge' Universal Pictures

#113: 'The Purge'

'The Purge' (watch the trailer)

Ethan Hawke starred in three movies released during the 'summer movie season' - one ranks among the very best films of 2013 ... while the other two are among the worst of 2013. 'The Purge' falls into the latter category.

The only interesting aspect of 'The Purge' is its premise - any/all crime is legal for one night a year. But 'The Purge' quickly abandons any part of its intriguing premise and rapidly devolves into an over-the-top home invasion slasher. And a dumb one at that.

Making matters worse: every protagonist goes out of their way to make insanely stupid decisions. It's hard to care or root for a family when all of them seem intent on getting murdered.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#112: 'The Lone Ranger'
#112: 'The Lone Ranger' Walt Disney Studios

#112: 'The Lone Ranger'

'The Lone Ranger' (watch the trailer)

Great films have very little fat to trim - then there's 'The Lone Ranger.' This 2-and-a-half-hour bloated movie is 80-90 percent fat.

The start of the movie has one OK action sequence and the finale has another OK set piece. Between these two bookends, there's a vast desert of boring scenes and poor storytelling.

There's actually a long montage sequence of two men just walking through the desert. Helena Bonham Carter's character is completely unnecessary. Tonto's backstory is tortuously wedged into the second act. The Lone Ranger spends most of the movie as a bumbling do-gooder - who then miraculously becomes a skilled hero (just in time for the final action sequence). The framing device - of old-man Tonto telling a young boy about the Lone Ranger - could have been cut entirely and nobody would have noticed.

Simply put - this movie is way too long.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

#111: 'Trance'
#111: 'Trance' Fox Searchlight Pictures

#111: 'Trance'

'Trance' (watch the NSFW Red Band trailer)

Nobody is perfect - even one of the great directors of the modern era, Danny Boyle. The man behind 'Trainspotting,' 'Slumdog Millionaire' and '127 Hours' has faltered with this puzzler not worth solving.

Too many plot cheats undermine Danny Boyle's stylish, uneven heist-psychological thriller 'Trance.' The movie swerves and pivots on a dime, expecting to surprise audiences with 'shocking' reveals but every surprise is unearned and comes out-of-nowhere.

As the film progresses and the double-crosses spin out of control, it's hard to care what happens to which character by the story's end.

So much of this story is needless: the numerous double-crosses, one very odd nude scene, a shocking head explosion and the entire preposterous heist scheme. None of these moments add anything of serious weight to the story or characters - they're all distractions to the barrage of unearned plot/character turns that betray the audience's intelligence.

Now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

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