2014’s 5 Worst Films So Far

We’re nearing the end of the summer film season, and 2014 has begun to pick up at the cinema. The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, despite its repulsively clunky title, was a surprise treat; The Guardians Of The Galaxy marked the most interesting addition to Marvel’s empire in some time; and Richard Linklater’s ambitious 12-year project Boyhood, which we reviewed in July, is probably the film of the year thus far. Furthermore, it appears there are many fine films coming in the autumn and winter, as is often the case.

But as the year in film picks up, it’s also tempting to look back at some of the real duds we’ve endured thus far. So just for fun, here’s a quick look back at five of the worst mainstream features of 2014 (in no particular order).

A Million Ways To Die In The West

At this point it’s tough to deny it: Seth MacFarlane has a certain gift for vulgar comedy. However, it’s also become increasingly clear that he should probably stick to Fox, where his animated comedy series (most notably Family Guy) is the best outlet for his humour.

Ted, MacFarlane’s first attempt at making a film, had its moments, but it was ultimately too long and almost too serious toward the end. A Million Ways To Die In The West is just plain bad. The jokes are lazy and familiar (for MacFarlane fans at least), and his acting is vaguely reminiscent of Jimmy Fallon’s Saturday Night Live days, when you could just see him smirking constantly at how funny he was being. This said, we did post a moderately positive review back when the film came out, so perspectives and opinions vary on this one.

Labor Day

This may well be the most frustrating film of 2014, simply because it had so much going for it. Written and directed by Jason Reitman—a seasoned pro responsible in part for the likes of Juno and Up In The Air—the film stars Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in what was billed as a kind of mystery/thriller and romance rolled into one.

But the result? We’re forced to wonder. As David Sexton put it in the London Evening Standard: “What was he thinking?” Labor Day is sappy and meaningless, and its layers of melodramatic romantic nonsense pile up until they’re dense enough to suffocate even the most patient of audiences. A truly horrible film that, by the way, has literally nothing to do with Labor Day, even on a metaphorical level.

Pompeii

Oddly enough, the general historical concept of Pompeii seems to be “in” this year. Not only has the Bastille song become one of the more recognizable pop hits of the year, but Aristocrat’s Pompeii slot machine has also been making the rounds in gaming circuits. Described on Inter casino as “set in the ancient city of Pompeii buried in lava flowing down from Mount Vesuvius”, the game naturally adds a bit of excitement to the typical arcade slot format. Additionally, it has joined a number of other film and pop culture-based games gaining popularity at arcade and gaming sites.

Despite the success of the song and game, however, Pompeii the film fell flat on its face, even with a half-decent performance from Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from HBO‘s Game Of Thrones). Set up with some promise as a sort of epic sword-and-sandals adventure in the shadow of Pompeii, the film devolves into a Titanic rip-off romance. A slave falls for a woman above his station, Kiefer Sutherland is laughably horrible as a Roman senator, and then the volcano bursts—that’s about it.

Winter’s Tale

Visit the popular book rating and reference site Goodreads, and you’ll find a page on a lovely little romantic fantasy called Winter’s Tale written by Mark Helprin. With just over 15,000 ratings in, the book has a solid 3.64 out of 5 stars, and many of the reviews are simply glowing. The story is somewhat ridiculous—a young thief falls in love with the wealthy daughter of a family he was attempting to rob, and then finds himself striving to alter the flow of time in order to keep their love alive. However, in Helprin’s hands, it reads gently and pleasurably.

Suffice it to say that in the hands of film director Akiva Goldsman, it was a mess. Colin Farrell stars as Peter Lake, the thief, and Russell Crowe makes an appearance, but the film takes itself far too seriously and proves to be lost without Helprin’s voice.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’ve seen one or two criticisms out there for entirely the wrong reasons. One is that this is a Michael Bay film. While this qualifies as a criticism in most cases, it’s just not true here—Bay produced the film, he didn’t direct. Another is that it’s more or less a giant add for Pizza Hut, and to that I say… so what? The teenage mutant ninja turtles notoriously gobble up pizza like it’s oxygen. Product placement is fine when it makes sense, and in this case it certainly does.

The real issue is that this film basically destroyed the turtles as we know, remember, and love them. This should have been a playful, simple reboot, but instead it relies too much on modern cinematic staples: over-the-top action, a certain darkness, etc. If any reboot should just have capitalized on nostalgia, this is the one.

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