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The Worst Movies of 2008

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I usually don’t do lists on the worst movies of the year because I am usually pretty good about avoiding the crap Hollywood unleashes on us (especially in January). Now if I were a paid movie critic, I am sure that this list would be overflowing with cinematic accidents. It's easy to pick apart all the bad horror remakes and lament on Hollywood's constant urge to raid the treasure chest for classic material to exploit. Sometimes it's not about making a good movie as it is about pushing a brand name that the public knows and loves.

You'd figure Hollywood would have learned its lesson by now and stop remaking all these Japanese and Asian horror movies because audiences have been avoiding them these days, and you can get a hint of their awfulness from a mile away. I for one even saw that when I looked at the poster for "One Missed Call," the first official movie release of 2008, and I stayed far away from it as a result.

The list I have here is actually pretty short, but all the movies on it are more than worthy of a good spanking if you will excuse the term. They messed up on a lot of different levels and wasted a lot of good talent on material that should have been much, much better. I actually don't regret seeing these movies though because, if nothing else, they each give you ideas of how NOT to make a movie. Each movie you see can be a great learning experience, and that includes the bad ones.

If there is any consolation, none of these movies were anywhere as bad as 2007's vile piece of toxic waste that was "Norbit" with Eddie Murphy. These ones did come fairly close though. I am presenting them in chronological order from when they were released during 2008.

Untraceable
Untraceable Screen Gems

Untraceable

Diane Lane stars as an FBI agent on the trailer of a serial killer who murders people live on the internet. Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear" & "Frequency") directed this insult to the intelligence movie that purported to be a statement against violence on the internet, but it seems to revel in the gory details of the murders committed. Many people accused Michael Haneke's remake of "Funny Games" of wallowing in the depraved violence it was presenting, but that one was more effectively made and barely showed any violence. This one goes as far to see a man in a water tub get his skin completely burned off by sulfuric acid that is added as quickly as the internet audience increases. The scenes of torture play like outtakes from the "Saw" movies.

Now look, I have no problem with blood and gore in movies. The way I see it, the gore the merrier. But if you are going to use these elements and make a point at the same time, be sure that you know what you are doing. Somehow, the makers of "Untraceable" left their brains at the door which is inescapable considering the talent involved in its making.

Actually, watching a movie like this can make you feel really smart because you can spot the plot holes and inconsistencies as soon as they show up on the silver screen. You come out if it feeling like you spotted things that no one else did. It's always the creepy young white man behind these crimes!

This movie is completely hypocritical in its treatment of its subject matter, and it is filled with characters doing the dumbest things (don't get back in your car Diane!). Diane Lane deserved better than this, but then again, so did everyone else who worked on it.

The Forbidden Kingdom
The Forbidden Kingdom Lionsgate

The Forbidden Kingdom

In retrospect, I was way too kind to this martial arts fantasy that brought together Jackie Chan and Jet Li for the first time. Yes there are some cool fight sequences, but considering how long it took to get Chan and Li together on the big screen, “The Forbidden Kingdom” should have been so much better! It's bad enough that there's a remake of "The Karate Kid" coming out in the future, and I am sick of its story being used in movie after movie about some young white kid who learns to defend himself through the tutelage of a martial arts master. I am also hoping that Jet Li doesn't do any more movies that involve him playing some leader who has been frozen in one place for hundreds and hundreds of years. On top of "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," this has not been his year.

I am so sick of movies that clearly get their stories from ones that are infinitely better. It's bad enough that most Hollywood movies lack originality, so there's no need to shove that heinous fact in our faces. All it does is rob the life and spontaneity of watching something like this. Considering what a big deal it was to bring these two martial arts action stars together, you would hope that a really exciting movie could come out of it. Studio executives keep messing things up by putting stars like these in movies that have obscenely ordinary stories. No amount of martial arts action can save this one. Saying that it this is a better meeting of two legends than "Alien vs. Predator" really isn't much of a compliment.

Speed Racer
Speed Racer Warner Brothers

Speed Racer

Of all the big budget Hollywood blockbusters that came out in the summer of 2008, this was easily the most disappointing of the bunch. Granted, it is a marvel on a visual scale, but “Speed Racer” feels so inert and just drags on for much longer than it should. There is no excitement to be found in the races as they are designed in a way where you can tell that no real damage is being done. If I wanted a video game, I would have gone out and bought one instead of watching this movie. "Speed Racer" came to us from the crazed imaginations of the Wachowskis, the same duo who gave us "The Matrix." You'd figure that they would do something extraordinary with this material, but no such luck.

This movie failed what I call the watch test. Basically, if I find myself looking at my watch during a movie, then that means it’s bad and I can’t wait for it to be over. "Speed Racer" failed this test by way before the two hour mark, and just when I thought it was over it wasn’t. How depressing it is when studios put so much money into making a movie but never enough energy or thought into the story or its characters.

"Speed Racer" should have been an exciting throwback to the cartoon of the past, but it didn't even come close.

Hell Ride
Hell Ride Dimension Films

Hell Ride

I bet the makers of this cinematic waste are looking at the horrendous reviews that it deservedly got and are saying that the critics just didn't get it. They're probably saying that “Hell Ride” was meant to be nothing more than a sleazy B-movie and that they were looking to give us a trashy good time at the movies. Alright, fine, there's a lot of good trash out there that is fun to watch and which never takes itself seriously. That was so great about "Grindhouse" when it came out in 2007. But "Hell Ride" fails on even that level, and it is nothing more than incoherent trash that feels a hell of a lot longer than its 83 minute running time. This one failed the watch test within the first half hour!

I still can't figure out what this movie was about. I guess there was some sort of revenge pact going on that had to do with an Indian woman getting burned or something like that... Never mind. Long before the movie was over, I had since given up trying to figure out what was going on and who everybody was. I even came pretty close to passing out while watching it, and that's saying a lot considering how short and loud it was.

Larry Bishop (who wrote, directed, and stars in "Hell Ride") apparently has big cult following from all those biker movies he did in the 70's. This one will not win him any new fans. Plus, for those of you groaning about how annoyed you were with Christian Bale’s growlingly deep voice in "The Dark Knight," Bishop's one note monotone performance has it beat by several miles.

Righteous Kill
Righteous Kill Millennium Films

Righteous Kill

Here was another pairing of two movie superstars in the same movie which turned out to be really bad. You have to wonder what made Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro decide to do this movie considering that it is no different than dozens of others like it. So great were these two in Michael Mann's "Heat," they both make "Righteous Kill" look as bad as "Heat" was good. Like "Untraceable," it involves cops on the search for a serial killer, but you will figure out who the killer is long before the movie's halfway point. How depressing it is to see these two great actors demean their well-respected talents in a movie that would have gone straight to video if it weren’t for them.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming. "Righteous Kill" was directed by Jon Avnet who earlier in 2008 directed Pacino to horrible reviews in "88 Minutes." I didn't see that one, but from watching the trailers for it, I could already spot plot holes that Batman could have driven right through. There's nothing special, let alone righteous, about "Righteous Kill," and you can't help but feel that DeNiro and Pacino are not even trying to put in their best efforts here. It simply goes through the motions of its genre, and you come out of it depressed. You never would have expected to see these two actors sink so low. 

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