Various changes in lifestyle mean this has not exactly been a bumper year for cinema-going in the Awix garret, certainly in terms of new movies: once golden oldies like 2001, West Side Story, Dirty Harry and Raiders of the Lost Ark, are discounted, we are left with only the sorry total of 58 new films for 2014. Well, there are a few days left before the actual end of the year, and I am hoping I may yet squeeze in a quick trip to see Ridley Scott's Exodus, which is currently luxuriating in some impressively bad reviews ('terrible' being about the most succinct of them).
Oh, the special pleasure of watching a really dreadful film. I know it is traditional at this time of year to recap the high points of the twelve months just concluding, but where's the fun in that? Everyone just reads reviews hoping for a really vicious hatchet job, don't they? And, to be honest, my memory of everything prior to about July is fairly foggy anyway, so how am I supposed to be certain if Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom really is better than, say, Fury? No idea.
(Although, if I was doing my top 10 of 2014, on the list would definitely be The Raid 2, Under the Skin, Interstellar, Locke, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, amongst others.)
So here, in rough order of release, are ten of the worst offenders of 2014, with a brief outline of their offences against cinema. And if this permits us to mention in passing some of the better films of the year, so much the better.
1. I, Frankenstein. Not the only appearance of a big-name horror character on this list, I, Frankenstein's biggest sin is its attempt to refashion an iconic literary archetype to service a knuckle-dragging comic-book premise – and not even an especially original or interesting one. Sadly, this film's vision of the Creature as an all-action superhero may point the way Universal will be taking all their monster properties. This film is full of sound, fury, and spectacle, yet it remains uncannily dull to watch.
2. 300: Rise of an Empire. Everyone loves a franchise, but no-one more than the studios, who treat them as a licence to print money – which goes a long way to explain the shortage of genuinely original films and the lack of faith they frequently show in them. Hence this dubious attempt at squeezing another film out of 300, a silly but enjoyable film which looked to have no sequel potential whatsoever. Which is why this is a grisly attempt at a Bourne-style 'interquel', taking place before, simultaneously with, and after the first film. This might have been more acceptable if the acting, script, and direction had been less mediocre.
3. Noah. Fair's fair, this just snuck onto the list; consider it a placeholder for Exodus, perhaps. Weirdness is not in and of itself a crime, but as well as being very strange, Noah is also quite dull in places and contains some very peculiar creative decisions. If I was only doing my top 7 or 8 worst films this one would not be here. But I'm not and it is.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Now, again, this isn't an actively bad movie, and it did okay at the box office. If it were the only superhero movie out this year it would be perfectly acceptable. But given 2014 also saw the release of The Winter Soldier, Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy, all of which were excellent in their own ways, Spidey ends up looking a bit of a wimp by comparison. Sony seem to agree, hence the negotiations to lease the character back to Marvel (rumour has it a new incarnation of the character may yet appear in Captain America 3).
5. Transcendence. Another not-all-that-terrible-film on its own terms, but, again, when it comes to intelligent SF, this is the year where we got Her, Under the Skin, and Interstellar. I mean, I like early 70s 'serious' SF movies too, but if this was an attempt at a pastiche it was just a bit too po-faced – too much Andromeda Strain and not enough Westworld.
6. Grace of Monaco. Speaking of po-faced... And I wish we'd been speaking of underpowered and banal, as well. Having said all that, the worst crime a film can commit is to be dull, and this is almost wilfully so, seeming to believe that Nicole Kidman's star power can drive the whole thing along. Not so.
7. Mood Indigo. Now this is just a personal thing, as I'm aware many people really liked it, but it nearly made me run amok in the theatre with an axe. I don't mind a bit of surrealism and whimsy in a film, but Mood Indigo has virtually nothing else going on, and it just made my teeth itch. There's something about the French...
8. Dracula Untold. Yes, it's another famous horror character, this time apparently retooled to launch a Marvel-style shared universe, which is what everyone seems to be doing at the moment. That didn't annoy me so much as the presentation of Dracula as some brooding, romantic hero, rather than the prince of darkness incarnate. You don't go to a Dracula movie to root for the title character...
9. Northern Soul. On the list for being not much more than a pile of cliches clipped onto a rather suspect dramatic structure. I feel like I've seen a lot of these pop-culture coming-of-age movies set in the recent past, trading heavily on nostalgia for their appeal, and Northern Soul adds nothing new to the form.
10. Horrible Bosses 2. I don't go to many modern American comedy films. And this one confirmed that this is generally a very sound policy. More depressing than anything else.
Well, I don't know about you, but I feel better for that. On the whole it has been a good year, and hopefully 2015 (which will see 24LAS entering its fifteenth year, dear me) will continue this. As is customary, I shall mention a few films I am especially looking forward to: very predictable suspects like Age of Ultron, Spectre, and Furious 7, of course. I shall be very surprised if any of them make it onto Ten Worst lists in a year's time: we shall see.
I wish you the best of New Years!