Listmania ’12! The Worst Movies Of The Year

Rather worryingly, it was a lot easier to get this list up to thirty than the best movies list, and I even had to stop watching bad movies because otherwise I’d never have finished. There were so many candidates this year that I ended up having to force myself to kinda sorta like some of them just to get them out of contention. As I said in the Best Movies list, this has been a shaky year for me with movies. I found myself becoming very disillusioned with the medium at one point, possibly because I’ve been writing and have found my patience for over-familiar storytelling tricks waning. It has caused much brow-furrowing, and as anyone who has met me knows, I have a lot of brow to furrow.

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An important thing I want to say before I get into this. A lot of internet debate this year has concerned the politics of popular art (or maybe it’s always like this and I only just started following the people who talk about it the most). Much of it has been fascinating and illuminating, shaping the way I understand the responsibilities of storytellers, to the point that even more than in previous years I now respond very strongly to negative portrayals of women, persons of colour, members of the LGBT community, or anyone differently abled. However, one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s that I come to these movies as someone interested in the mechanics of story first. Some readers may think I should do it the other way around, but this is how I’m built, how I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s the approach that suits my (privileged white male) outlook the best.

Which is not to say I don’t care about such matters; I do, very much. However, I’ll always watch a film for the film first, and deal with the rest later, mostly because I’m more confident in assessing something through the storytelling lens than the political one, as I’ve been thinking as a storyteller for a lot longer than I have as an analyst of political messages (and I’m always going to be in the process of learning more about both). If a film does interesting or worthy things on a story level, I won’t automatically ignore or excuse its political problems; my praise will be tempered, but I’ll still feel compelled to commend what works.

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For example, Jack Reacher has massive problems in how it treats women, which made me livid, but in terms of directorial approach and storytelling tricksiness I loved it, so I’m on the fence about it. Only when we become fixated on binary love/hate reactions would such a thing be a problem, but I’ve always tried to see films as an aggregation of different variables, so I can like something for one reason, hate it for another. The truncated nature of social media, and the subsequent removal of nuance, means it often feels like no one does that any more, though I’m sure I’m wrong on that one. Right?

As for the movies on this list, they’re here because I think they failed on a storytelling or artistic level, and all deserve to be here for that reason alone, but the top ten especially seemed to fill up very quickly with movies that committed both crimes against storytelling and people. I will inevitably come across as a humourless, overthinking, fun-averse chide during this post, but as I wrote it I realised how angry some of these films made me, so my usual chirpiness vanished. This is where trying to have an open mind gets me; watching everything in the hope that I’ll find a misunderstood gem means I have to wade through an ocean of fecal matter to get the odd gem.

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Anyway, apologies for the traditional caveats. Two more quick ones before I get into it: sadly I haven’t seen Atlas Shrugged Part 2 in time for this, which is a shame as it’s supposed to be worse than the first one and that topped last year’s list with ease. This is the Bad Movie List equivalent of not seeing Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty before finishing the Good Movie List. Also, please don’t be offended by any selections here that you liked. Nothing here is meant as a judgement on anyone other than the people who made the films, and even then their failure is often the result of a badly-tossed coin rather than anything more worrisome. If you liked any of the movies here, then it fit your Criteria For Success, as I’ve taken to calling it, which is obviously fine as no two people have the same ones. And that’s cool. These just really weren’t for me, and that means nothing in the scheme of things. Though really, number two in this list is just flat-out fucking horrible.

25. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part Two

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It wouldn’t be a worst of the year list if it didn’t include a Twilight movie at some point, though from next year onwards Shades of Caruso will have to figure out a way to cope without our least favourite supernatural bores. Our long, international ordeal is over. Bella and Edward are together, like they were pretty early on in the first film and continued to be for the majority of the series; a perfect example of that depressing narrative stasis I’ve been complaining about for half a decade. So, considering how high these films have been on each year’s worst list, why is this at no. 25 and not, say, no. 1, like when Return of the King won all those Oscars? Because this one was actually sporadically entertaining, with a bit more Michael Sheen than usual, a crazy mid-movie sequence involving some hastily introduced story-padding vampire eccentrics, one undead ghoul with the brilliant super-power of “PARALYSING VAPOURS” which made me laugh for a week, and a fantastic big finale fight that left me reeling with shock. But in that case, I hear you cry, why is it on the list if you liked it so much? Because of one choice made right at the end that invalidates everything that has happened, meaning that once more we get absolutely no narrative progression at all. It’s two hours of waiting for something to happen, only for that thing not to happen. The book contains no dramatic impetus and the only way the movie can get around that is by lying to the audience. It’s a very entertaining lie, but it’s still unacceptable. Goodbye. Twilight, thanks for the laughs. But I won’t miss you. Not really.

24. [REC]³ Génesis

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Since Evil Dead 2 a lot of horror comedies have hewed to a very familiar template; while Kevin Williamson, Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, and Robert Rodriguez have tried to break open the genre to figure out how it works, most filmmakers have been content to mimic Raimi’s groundbreaking work by throwing some monsters at a group of protagonists in order for them to be dispatched in as grisly a way as possible. It’s the easiest kind of transgressive cinema, with slapstick taken to the logical, unpleasant extreme; tread on a rake in one of these films and your head will fly off and land in a nun’s lap, probably. The third in the [Rec] series eschews the intensity of the previous installments in favour of laughs; a promising way to inject new life into a franchise that was finding it hard to maintain its found footage format. Sadly the result is an underpowered and overfamiliar gross-out comedy that often resembles the execrable Torchwood episode Something Borrowed, itself guilty of mimicking Raimi’s horror-comedy landmark. Juxtaposing the horror of a demonic zombie plague with a wedding ceremony sounds promising but instead all we get is some depressing wacky hijinks from some of the guests and a bit of unimaginative gore. Less scary than Lamberto Bava’s Demons, to which it bears passing resemblance, and disappointingly low on laughs, this might only be as underwhelming as every other horror comedy clogging up the shelves, but considering the pedigree, and the damage it might do to the integrity of the ongoing [Rec] saga, it’s especially annoying. Let’s hope [Rec]: Apocalypse gets the franchise back on track.

23. The Five-Year Engagement

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Many of the films on this list are by writers and directors with previous form. If you haven’t looked further down the list you’ll see that some of Shades of Caruso’s many bêtes noire are coming up. More depressingly, then there are misfires by people we like, and these entries are no fun to write. Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel have, between them, been responsible for three films we think of very fondly; Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek and The Muppets are a big deal in SoC HQ. You can imagine how excited we were when we heard they were collaborating again, this time on what they trumpeted as the ultimate romantic comedy. They studied the classics, they analysed the conventions, they stuck to the rules, and yet this is what we got; two hours of contrived stasis, with a malfunctioning and unconvincing premise as its spine. And where were the jokes? Even the Reality-Bending Charisma Storm that is Emily Blunt (future Monarch of the post-apocalyptic Human Alliance of Planets; you heard it here first) can do nothing here other than make you wince in horror at the indignities poured upon her. It’s rote, it’s mechanical, it’s absurdly drawn-out, much like the titular engagement. Only a spirited final scene registers in the memory, but what a slog to get there. God knows what it was like before the reshoots that occurred before release. What should have been one of the best examples in this genre has turned out to be one of the worst; a how-to manual that unexpectedly ends up showing future storytellers how-not-to instead.

22. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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How to disappoint Shades of Caruso part 2. When I heard that Neveldine / Taylor were going to make a sequel to Ghost Rider – one of our favourite bad movie indulgences – I was thrilled. With money and support there was a chance that their chaotic and ballsy visual approach would yield dividends, a suspicion bolstered by a trailer showing Johnny Blaze pissing fire. This was what we wanted; some honest-to-god madness, and none of Mark Steven Johnson’s hesitance. But again, this weirdness of this character defied the attempt to translate him / it to a new medium. Neveldine / Taylor’s madness only really works when the stakes in their movies don’t matter. We don’t give really give a shit about Chev Chelios’ survival, except that his death would mean the end of the movie. As N / T don’t care either, and are only interested in throwing more random imagery at the camera in the weirdest ways possible, it works. But Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has a sympathetic protagonist and attempts to create a goal for him to achieve, people to protect. Fine, except that this ends up feeling like scenes from two movies shuffled together, and we see how hollow it truly their approach is. N / T don’t know how to make us care, but even worse they don’t seem to realise that they’re meant to. The result is truly disheartening, and hints that early suspicions about N / T are true; they don’t actually know what they’re doing. It’s on them to prove me wrong. This boring, ugly mess is not the way to go about it. That said, my main men Cage and DJ Big Driis are awesome in it, at least.

21. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Movies set in India tend to make me nervous, with Western filmmakers treating the country like some kind of magical spiritual wonderland. I blame The Beatles. Slumdog Millionaire annoyed me for its flaws as a film, more than anything, and Darjeeling Limited walked a fine line, falling mostly on the side of satirising the idiocy and ignorance of its rich protagonists rather than making some patronising argument about the virtues of the country. Eat, Pray, Love‘s trivialisation of issues like poverty and depression, on the other hand, were unforgivable, and while watching Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I held onto the thin argument that at least John Madden and Ol Parker’s adaptation of Deborah Moggach’s novel wasn’t as clueless as that. But the depiction of the honest poor of India is still wince-inducing and overly sincere, most horribly seen in Dev Patel’s gallumphing performance as the cowering simpleton running the old folk’s home. Even worse is the pandering, shallow guff about living life to the full even when old, reducing the characters to two-dimensions, their arc a binary switch which will be flicked during the final act in a tornado of predictable uplift. The cast contains many of my favourite actors, doing their best with the weak source material, but compared to Hope Springs, which dealt with the complications of old age in a more sensitive and measured way, this comes across as just yet another mechanical British movie about overcoming adversity, devoid of genuine warmth and humanity despite the great performances from almost everyone involved.

20. Taken 2

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The first Taken was one of the most surprising box office hits of recent years. Why this movie? Films about action men killing swarthy foreigners are a dime a dozen and have been for years. Liam Neeson wasn’t a huge box office draw, and neither was Maggie Grace. It didn’t have anything that seemed to be a hook and yet it made $145m in the US. The uncharitable reading is that it appealed to an undercurrent of xenophobia in a sub-section of the populace, but thanks to Pierre Morel’s taut direction it is at least, for all its faults, a compelling action movie, and Neeson’s re-emergence as an action hero makes a lot of sense as the film powers towards its conclusion. So how to explain Taken 2‘s popularity? This time let’s chalk it up to familiarity with the format, and the now-justified position of Neeson as box office powerhouse, because this doesn’t even have competence as a variable. Morel did wonders with Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen’s traditionally tin-eared dialogue and threadbare plotting, but Oliver Megaton is unable to bring anything to the table other than straight-to-DVD-level mundanity and brain-scrambling editing used to hide the thin, unappealing footage. Without lizard-brain appeal this franchise’s shortcomings are laid horribly bare, and Neeson and villainous Rade Sherbedzija, both men with inbuilt gravitas, can do nothing to save it. Back in the day we had Silver Pictures to churn out a series of cheap but wry and appealing action movies; Besson and Kamen should stay in and watch a bunch of them one weekend to see how high the bar is really set.

19. One For The Money

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Funny that this came out at the beginning of the year, and Jack Reacher came out at the end. Both are about characters in popular novels, both were turned into star vehicles by actors who desperately needed a new tentpole franchise to call their own, both were rejected by the fans as entirely wrong for the part. And yet, while Jack Reacher is made with care and attention to detail – while preserving the worst and most beloved aspects of its source material – One For The Money is one of the laziest films in recent memory. It all hinges on Katherine Heigl’s charms, and if you’re resistant then this is a tough slog, but to be fair her spiky personality is better matched with protagonist Stephanie Plum’s brassy NJ persona than fans of Janet Evanovitch’s novel would accept. Sadly Heigl struggles to inject any life into this still-born project, which neither amuses or excites. On top of that there’s a tedious romantic subplot that makes the recent atrocious The Bounty Hunter look like a Hepburn / Tracy classic. If this mini-review seems to lack detail that’s because this eminently forgettable film left my mind within minutes of the credits rolling. All I can recall with full confidence is that 90 minutes felt like 16 hours, and the only thing I got from it was a rage headache at all that wasted time.

18. Snow White and the Huntsman

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As if we didn’t already have enough reason to hate Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, still the most maddening piece of cultural vandalism that this blog has seen in its time on the net. Its incredible, baffling success means “fairy tales” are in, triggering the genesis of Jack The Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. ::pauses to sigh wearily:: It also gave us two Snow White movies. Mirror, Mirror is merely a leaden star vehicle for Julia Roberts, with Tarsem’s usual visual business curiously lacking in oomph this time around. Rupert Sanders’ Huntsman, on the other hand, is one of the more depressing films of the summer, finding its own success despite offering nothing but a listless mishmash of tones in search of a unifying idea. It’s got a bit of Twilight, not just in the casting of Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan with a sword, but also the love triangle between her, the Prince of the original tale and the Huntsman who searches for her, his role in the tale beefed up past breaking point. It’s got lots of Lord of the Rings too, not realising that expanding the original Grimm tale with courtly drama and big action scenes means empty spectacle without a complex and well-imagined world to build on. There’s even some faux-Miyazaki stuff about the spirit of the forest lifted almost directly from Princess Mononoke. But this is no light-footed genre mish-mash. It’s just the lining of a magpie’s nest, shot like an advert by a man who doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing, with only an over-thought, noted-to-death script as a guide. The dead-end of the genre; next to this even mad shit from the 80s like Hawk The Slayer looks visionary.

17. Take This Waltz

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Sarah Polley’s second movie may not have won as many critical plaudits as her first movie — Away From Her — but it still got multiple award nominations and festival raves. Certainly Polley does something very welcome in taking on a thorny subject with a refreshingly non-judgemental approach, detailing the slow and regrettable dissolution of a marriage as the protagonist, Margot, makes a choice to take control of her life and allow herself to fall for another man. Affairs in films are usually used to make “slut-shaming” judgements on women for their wanton ways, so Polley’s decision to make this choice an empowering one for Margot is commendable. However, to do this means we get a full 90 minutes walking on the spot as Margot, played as a cutesy child-woman by Michelle Williams, agonises over her choice in scene after scene of overplayed, near-unwatchable stasis, eroding the sympathy of any audience member with a low-threshold for meandering storytelling. Take This Waltz spends so much time justifying Margot’s choice, clearing her of any possible audience negativity, that the whole film seems like a defensive argument, blunting the drama of her choices and making her seem more a fool for taking so long than a brave woman taking control of her destiny. It leads to a lopsided film that lacks the courage of its convictions, made worse by its unbearable mopey characters and their self-consciously twee behavior; to endure Luke Kirby’s drawn-out-beyond-the-limits-of-endurance café seduction scene is to know burning, soul-deep agony.

16. What To Expect When You’re Expecting

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The thought that movies are being made of pregnancy guides and relationship advice manuals has caused much hilarity and/or despair among the critical community, but as I argued in this review of Battleship, it doesn’t really matter where you find your inspiration from as long as the end product is worthwhile. This is not worthwhile. Using a similar structure to Garry Marshall’s Valentines Day / New Year’s Eve ensemble pieces, WTEWYE addresses a number of different scenarios involving childbirth, from adoption to miscarriage to the long road to birth, but while the book offers advice and tips on how to cope, this has nothing but cheap jokes, clumsy slapstick, and a strange balance in which there seems to be more time spent dealing with how the fathers will cope than the mothers, who are only really present to be hysterical. That’s not its main crime, and neither is the depiction of one character’s miscarriage, which is as movie-convenient and insultingly sugar-coated as you’d imagine in a light comedy. The true horror comes when J-Lo’s childlessness triggers a tearful rant during which she says of herself, “I’m the one who can’t do the one thing that a woman is supposed to be able to do.” Yes. The one thing — THE ONE THING — that a woman is supposed to do. Of all the things I saw in 2012, that probably generated the most vocal reaction of disgust. Good job I didn’t see it in a cinema, or I’d have gone Shoshanna Dreyfus on the building.

15. Intouchables

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Kicking this feel-good movie about a paraplegic and his carer feels like torturing a puppy, but sometimes needs must. While sincerity in films is a big plus point as far as we’re concerned, when it tips over into oleaginous sentimentality we close the door and never look back. Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s dramatisation of their documentary A la vie, à la mort looks like it’s on solid ground, transcribing reality into life-affirming cinema, but once separated from reality the temptation to coat this tale in sugar seems to have been irresistible. Much of the movie is spent presenting Philippe’s depression as being easily cured by the intervention of Driss, but this eagerness to show the efficacy of all that dancing and lovable hamminess from Omar Sy means the film is dangerously lopsided, and the second act crisis – in which Driss quits for plot convenience – is so feeble they might as well have not bothered. It’s inert on a dramatic level and cutesy to an intolerable degree; two terrible strikes against it. But then we have the deeply questionable decision to change the real life carer – an Algerian – to an African who is pathologically lazy and thoughtless. So we have the stereotype of the lazy black man transformed by the benevolence and friendship of the cultured and affluent white male, compounded by the also-included trope of the square middle-class guy learning to live life thanks to a Magical Negro. And France chose this as their Foreign Language Academy Award nominee instead of the far-superior Rust and Bone? FFS.

14. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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There are two ways to make a movie based on a gimmicky idea like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; make a dumb joke out of it or go serious. Comedy would be an insult to the people who fought and died in the Civil War and the fight against slavery, so you don’t want to do that. Of course, pretending that it was vampires that almost split America down the middle, and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people is also an insult to the people who fought and died in the Civil War and the fight against slavery, but Seth Grahame-Smith and Timur Bekmambetov seem to see no problem in trivialising the issue in this manner. Quentin Tarantino has received considerable flack for addressing slavery in the context of a Spaghetti Western homage but from all accounts he goes all out in depicting the horror of the South’s treatment of African-Americans, whereas this spectacularly misjudged debacle barely drew any criticism for saying, “yeah, the enslavement of over four million slaves by Americans was bad, but hell, it could have been vampires doing it.” SERIOUSLY, WHY WAS NO ONE BOTHERED BY THIS? Is it just because it’s a metaphorical use of vampires? Why bother doing that when the thought that humans would commit this crime is more potent than adding supernatural elements? This doesn’t illuminate the issue, or bring a new perspective to it. It just takes tragedy and turns it into an instantly forgettable Syfy-worthy one off, not even making up for its redundancy by being exciting, or funny, or even alive on screen. Now that I think about it, there’s actually a third way to tell this tale; don’t make a movie about it, just treat it as the mildly amusing idea for a Halloween costume that it actually is and leave it at that.

13. Dark Shadows

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You can show me a hundred interviews with Tim Burton in which he claims that this adaptation of the quirky supernatural ABC soap opera is a dream project borne of his childhood love of the show, but that won’t make it seem any less like a movie Burton felt obligated to make, like he woke up one morning and said, “I guess it’s time to do that one,” before letting out a weary sigh and storyboarding the whole thing while his morning pot of coffee finished brewing (FYI he takes his coffee black because he’s a fucking Goth, you might have noticed). The realisation that this fantasy scenario might be accurate comes when you finally endure the desperately dreary movie and it occurs to you that Burton would have phoned his producer and sold it on the strength of the wacky sex scene, and his producer would have exclaimed, “Holy crap, I can see it now! Or rather, I can see the trailer!” And that’s because there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. Dark Shadows is so perfunctory, so devoid of life or vibrancy, that it feels like you’ve already endured it before you have, but even then, with this dearth of imagination on display, you will still be astonished by the ill-thought-out plot that tries to mimic the soap opera format of the show by writing characters out after one or two key scenes — meaning the film never seems to settle down — or the seemingly endless first act in which Barnabas goes around the Collins household meeting people. Just meeting them. For, like, fifteen minutes. This isn’t cinema. It’s not even old TV. It’s just shit.

12. The Sweeney

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While the James Bond franchise busies itself with the job of turning its out-of-date misogynistic asshole into a tortured, justifiably hateful shitbag we can all love – three dimensions of worthy but highly entertaining odiousness – this reboot of the beloved original doesn’t even bother to address the problematic 70s-era politically incorrect Jack-The-Lad hijinx, presenting it with no commentary as business as usual. Perhaps it should be commended for trying to remain faithful to its origins, but even to a target audience that has a Sweeney boxset at home and lectures its friends dahn the boozah abaht them PC wankahs will find this to be pretty thin gruel. Nick Love and co-writer John Hodge – yes, the man behind Trainspotting and Shallow Grave – do an unconvincing job of updating the original, taking a bunch of cliches and adding in the names “Carter” and “Regan” every so often, ladling in some excruciatingly dated banter about them birds and making sure the bad guy is a Serb for extra Guardian-baiting fun. Ian Kennedy Martin would likely look at this metallic blue machine and weep. Not even for a moment does this feel like anything other than a rote retelling of a million other stories, yet another cash-in, hoping to make some money from the kind of incurious twerp who thinks Garry Bushell is a man of insight and courage. Watching a cast this good (well, Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell and Ray Winstone) swallow their pride is enough to make you pray for the British film industry to immolate itself; we’ve got the accelerant right here.

11. Friends With Kids

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Anyone reading this list of the year’s most horrible movies could end up thinking that Shades of Caruso is populated by terrible prudes, what with all the necklace-clutching over those off-colour comedies. Nothing could be further from the truth, but considering the glut of adult comedies released into the post-Apatow world like cum-scented Kudzu, someone has to take a stand. This shift from numb acceptance to active annoyance occurred midway through Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids, an off-putting adult comedy about a woman who decides to have a child with her platonic best friend. Westfeldt wrote Kissing Jessica Stein, which I recall was frank about sex and relationships but never became unpleasant. This, on the other hand, seems to be overly aggressive in its urge to shock the audience with swearing and “daring” jokes. This might be the kind of thing a prude would say, but the crime here is not to be offensive but to drive past the point of acceptability, beyond where transgression is funny, to end up in a place where the tone is uncomfortably, relentlessly sour. It’s bad enough that Westfeldt’s premise is so unbelievable; the protagonists decide to go through with their plan on what feels like a whim, and are then required to snottily dismiss everyone around them in a whirlwind of misanthropic complaints. None of it rings true, and the convenient final act muting of that inappropriate voice to show growth comes out of nowhere. I’m sure Westfeldt would cry foul if I said the crass dialogue spouted by her hateful characters was a cynical choice, but even so, it feels like she jumped on a bandwagon and tragically misjudged how far she could go before alienating the viewer.

10. The Expendables 2

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Perhaps the worst thing about the Expendables franchise – and with the second installment making $300 million, it’s fair to say that this is a franchise, not an anomaly – is that the idea behind it is so compelling to a sub-section of film fandom, so ripe with promise, that the dreary first movie is especially disappointing. But that movie is like a peak-era Silver Pictures film compared to this, something that even Golan and Globus would consider dumping in a lake and never talking about again. Eschewing the poorly dramatised double- and treble-crosses of the first film, Simon West’s sluggish sequel relies solely on the goodwill of the audience to ignore the threadbare plot, the underwritten villain, the overly familiar scenarios and flatly-shot action scenes. Because look! It’s everyone’s favourite birther, Chuck Norris, slowly walking into shot and referring to himself as a Lone Wolf! And look! Arnie and Bruce swap catchphrases! “Will this do?” screams the film, as we cut once more to Stallone looking like his batteries are about to run out. Apparently it will, if it’s going to make this much money. Less a homage to the best of the genre, more an out-of-date nightmare mutated through the introduction of irradiated dollars into a lumbering beast crushing the genre underfoot. Don’t put a copy of this on your DVD/Blu-Ray shelf; your copies of Die Hard, Predator, Lethal Weapon, The Killer, First Blood, Demolition Man, The Last Boy Scout, 48 Hours, Con Air, The Rock – even Action Jackson – will jump down and beat you to death for the insult.

9. The Lorax

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At the forefront of culture, where sentiment’s free,
There’s a well-meaning well-spring of sanctimony.
A clattering chatter of serious chaps
Come to warn us of doom; Eco-horror collapse!
And plastic doohickeys that suck out the soul
Of we miserable fools, our dead hearts black as coal.

“Oh woe, these poor dopes — grasping, ignorant saps
With their claptrap and waffle and counterfeit crap.
Don’t they see,” cry the men, their hands wringing in fear,
“What dire fate lies in wait if our cries they don’t hear?”
So they commenced their project, to adapt a great book,
Spent ALL OF THE DOLLARS, begged, “Please, you must look!”

And what did they give us? A veritable onslaught
Of ads and promotions, TV spots with a cohort
Of fabulous faces; An orgasmical sight!
Taylor Swift and Zac Efron! Ed Helms! Betty White!
And there’s Danny DeVito, who was chosen to play
The thing they call LORAX, nature’s orange Sensei.

The Lorax was unleashed but, a curious thing;
We heard rumblings and mumblings; “Oh this movie doth ming!
It’s so garish and ugly and much more than a tad
Hypocritical and lousy and vapid and bad.
We know that the future holds horrible trials
For our kids and our kids’ kids; We’re not in denial.

“Yet you treat us as if we’re all deaf, dumb, and blind,
Preaching ‘caring for nature makes you virtuous, kind.
And also buy Mazda! Our corporate sponsor who
Makes cars that don’t run on splut-splatter goo.
No no no, someone else commits those crooked acts.
Mazda’s cars run on wishes, fairy farts; check the facts!’

“We see through your flim-flam, this insult to the truth
You exploit to justify selling trash to our youth.
This far, no further! (Oh yes, we went there). No more, please!
Our next generation knows it’s gotta save trees.
Admit it, you made this because of the guilt
At the towering shower of turds you have built.”

“So now,” say the victims of this loud, joyless screech,
“To those midwives who birthed it, of you we beseech:
It’s time that you ended this endless abuse
Of beloved and gentle and saintly Doc Seuss.
UNLESS filmmakers like you give up making this rot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

8. The Watch

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As time passes you realise that big summer movies that work are as rare as hen’s teeth, or sober compositions in a Tom Hooper movie. This means you cherish the ones that work; Ghostbusters, Raiders, Back to the Future; they all look better now than ever, while the underpowered nature of a half-competent sequel like Men in Black 3 casts the inventive original in an even better light. Those were movies that sweated the details, polishing a promising idea, adding layers of detail to create an immersive world. The makers of The Watch figured you can just turn Invasion of the Body Snatchers into a bitter comedy about empowering under-achieving men and then pile on the popular actors until the jokes just spontaneously happen. Watching actors like Vaughan and Stiller – men who once showed up on set to do a job instead of sending life model decoys programmed with all of their previously endearing stock personality traits – go through the motions, unwilling to be prodded into life by their director Akiva Schaeffer, is this misfire’s most disheartening spectacle. Well, second most. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whose script work until now has been mostly very entertaining, do nothing to bring this 90-minute ad for Costco to life, choosing instead to turn it into another of their now patented meditations on male friendship, except without the insight or jokes or sincerity of their previous films, and betraying a lack of interest in the female worldview that limits their range. It’s tempting to say it couldn’t have been any lazier, but then I think, “They could have removed Richard Ayoade, Rosemary DeWitt and Will Forte from it,” and I realise that’s the version they play on a loop in Hell.

7. Resident Evil: Retribution

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Notorious performance artist Armond White’s most provocative review of the year saw him denigrate Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master while praising Paul W.S Anderson’s latest installment of the Resident Evil franchise; how thrilled he must have been when he realised they were being released in the same week, thus giving him a hook for his latest exercise in peer-trolling. The sentence that betrays his lack of conviction is the last, where he says that RE: R “transforms a genre franchise with visionary newness,” suggesting that he wrote the review without even seeing it. Because this is the total opposite of new or visionary. As with all of PWSA’s films, RE: R is a compilation of moments from other films that he remembers, transcribed with low-budget creakiness, cobbled together into a barely coherent and emotionally empty collage, but without the enthusiasm or glowing adoration of Tarantino’s genre pastiches. It’s just another money-maker from a man with no urge to innovate or communicate a point, and while SoC is happy to watch unambitious B-movies, PWSA’s cynicism and lack of imagination is especially dispiriting. This is perfect for anyone who enjoys watching Milla Jovovich, wearing her “Determined Face” expression, yet again posing stiffly in front of a green screen with co-stars who mechanically utter characterless exposition, safe in the knowledge that they don’t have to go to the trouble of making the cyphers they’re playing come to any recognisable kind of life, while PWSA recycles not only shots from his other movies but from this one too; numerous action beats are replicated over and over again, almost defiantly rubbing the audience’s face in it. Here’s a sobering thought, though; considering the persistent, viral success of this franchise, perhaps games will spell the end for cinema, just not in the way we thought. (NB: Worth noting that this is the only film in the top ten that treats women as human beings, so massive, sincerely-meant kudos for that.)

6. The Devil Inside

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If the case against Found Footage ever went to trial, the defence lawyers, with Blair Witch Project, [Rec], Paranormal Activity and Chronicle at their side, would weep with horror at their imminent defeat when the prosecution calls just this catastrophic failure into evidence. There are dozens of lazy exorcism movies out there, so William Brent Bell’s low energy home movie has company, but compared to a qualified success like Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, you realise just how little effort was put into this. Bad enough that the premise doesn’t even work logically – two rogue exorcists scared that their secret work will be revealed to the Vatican allow a documentary film crew to follow them around – and bad enough that the last 20 minutes of this 70-minute-long film are basically filled with people screaming incoherently at each other, the biggest insult is the incomplete finale that directs the viewer to a website that explains what happens next. Considering that the movie rests on the archaic and disgusting idea that the protagonist is being punished by the Devil for daring to have an abortion when it turns out her baby won’t carry to term, it’s probably not worth the effort of typing the URL which, let’s face it, is about as much effort as has been expended by the filmmakers. Unconvincing, cynical, histrionic, The Devil Inside single-handedly sets the horror genre back fifty years. And yet it made millions. Abandon hope, all ye who love horror films, and despair.

5. Act of Valor

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This bare-bones actioner should be seen by everyone interested in cinema or storytelling, but not for the reasons the directors and writers would like. Famously shot originally as a video for the military, it was expanded into a film by Scott Waugh, Mouse McCoy and Kurt Johnstad with real soldiers playing the main characters. Well, I say characters, but basically they’re the equivalent of NPCs in a video game, holding guns and moving about the screen but doing very little in the way of coming across as sentient beings, with the two “protagonists” leaving me with the impression that one of them is called Steve, the other isn’t, and the only things they can say to each other is, “bland comment about family,” followed by “awkward laugh”. The comparison between this and games like Call of Duty has been made numerous times – after all it features a lot of POV shots from behind guns, and vapid quotations from military thinkers to add gravitas so they’re practically identical, right? — but games have plots. Oft-derided games like CoD at least have an emotional charge, much as critics would like to pretend they don’t. Sure, sometimes they don’t work but when they do they have compelling protagonists and antagonists, arcs and momentum and event and all of the things that good stories should. This has nothing other than a string of firefights and a threat to be vanquished. Act of Valor is How Not To Make Movies 101; indifferently-directed action wrapped around a hollow core, plus lazy sentiment replacing meaning. Even worse, despite the heavily-signposted death of Steve (or not-Steve, I couldn’t tell who was who), it still serves as an advert for the Navy. It’s the equivalent of a giant erection pointing at a bloodied corpse.

4. Ted

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Credit to Seth McFarlane for coming up with this great idea — like a twisted version of AI in which David somehow grows up and gets stuck with a sociopathic Teddy — with which to explore the ways in which child-men resist the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s such a great visual, the man accompanied everywhere by the visual representation of his infantile attitude. Which makes McFarlane’s traditional lack of effort even more frustrating than usual. The man is a machine cranking out very basic material on an industrial basis, and thus Ted goes through the motions much like his irksome TV shows, except this time he can add profitable and fashionable R-rated jokes about sex to his repertoire, which usually just consists of pop-culture references and hastily tossed-off non-sequiturs. Getting into a discussion about what is and isn’t funny is a waste of time; I think McFarlane’s a one-note huckster, but he has passionate fans who would be annoyed at my dismissal of his work. I get that. But what makes Ted truly worthless, aside from the cracks about Muslims and “sluts”, and the obnoxious nods and winks he throws at the crowd to “excuse it all”, is that I don’t believe, not even for a femtosecond, that McFarlane means a thing in this film. Not the moral ending, in which the slacker hero gets everything — including a Hallmark-card lesson about responsibility that McFarlane figures constitutes an arc because he saw it in an Apatow movie — and his girlfriend gets nothing. Not his supposed love for Flash Gordon, which I bet he watched once before making this film, knowing that a section of the audience would respond favourably. Not even the filth. He just knows what makes a buck, and he shovels it into our faces without a second thought. He’s P.T. Barnum with dick jokes. If this guy’s really the cultural powerhouse he seems to be, then we need to find the reset button, and pronto.

3. This Means War

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Remember Mr. and Mrs. Smith? That was a curious film. Kinda hateful, but with a central conceit that might have worked, with a few dozen rewrites and a complete change of cast and director. I don’t know how you’d go about getting it into full fighting shape but it’s conceivable. Now along comes This Means War, a film that treads in the same footsteps (and shares a writer in Simon Kinberg) in which relationship troubles are dramatised via the conventions of the espionage genre. That’s an unusually good match, the consequences of secrecy being the most compelling aspects of both kinds of story. It’s telling, then, that only James Cameron got close to getting it right with True Lies, but even then had that massively problematic middle act. Imagine an entire movie of that and you’ve got this… thing… from McG, a film in which we’re meant to root for two colossal fuckbags who manipulate and spy on the ditzy heroine, a film in which the only choice she gets to make is which of these maladjusted fratboy scumbags she will end up with. If Mr. and Mrs. Smith had some possibility of working out with some tweaking of the material, or the tone, or some goddamn thing, there’s nothing that could be done to save this vile mistake. It’s nasty, it’s devoid of jokes, it’s unexciting, it has no insight, no verve, no wit, no purpose other than to fill a gap in a studio’s release schedule and to further chip away at the possibility that women’s lot in life will ever improve; to watch it is to feel all hope of parity between the genders evaporate. Its other big crime? Surgically removing Tom Hardy’s continent-sized SuperMojo to prevent him rightly showing up everyone else in it. I suspect Christian Bale’s infamous Terminator: Salvation rant was an EMP that wiped all sense from McG; we’ll get nothing competent from him ever again.

2. Project X

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The recent American elections saw a phrase enter the lexicon: The War on Women. Republicans eager to restrict the lives and opportunities of women by making it hard to get on in this world by removing their rights cynically refused to accept that their policies were motivated by a distrust or hatred of women, but the wave of bitterness coming from the Right was impossible to ignore. But then it’s no wonder legislators figured women were fair game. If there’s anything this list of the worst films shows, it’s that men still think it’s perfectly acceptable to treat women as baby-incubators or, in their teens, as a reward men deserve for being bold. Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X might pretend to be another film in a lineage including Porky’s, Animal House, American Pie and Superbad, but this isn’t fit to be mentioned in the same breath. Three nerdy teen boys hold the biggest teen party imaginable in the hopes of getting “pussy”. And they do. That’s the movie right there. The most odious teenagers ever committed to film are rewarded for their sociopathic disregard for everyone around them with the respect of their peers, the adoration of numerous mute naked girls, and barely any censure from the law. Only the ostensibly sympathetic protagonist is prosecuted, but that’s okay, because his dad secretly thinks he’s a bad ass and the virginal girl who he previously cuckolded with a “slut” (here punished for her sexual activity by being secretly filmed naked) still loves him and forgives him, but then she would, as she’s practically a dudebro so she’s okay. This was written by Michael Bacall, the guy who co-wrote 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim? This was co-produced by Joel Silver? It’s by far the worst thing he has ever been involved with, a fuck you to half of the population of the world, a diseased window into the worst of what Western civilisation is. Everyone involved should be fucking ashamed of themselves, and forced to wear a scarlet A (for Asshole) on their chests.

1. Alex Cross

This blog’s Best of 2012 Movies list was topped not by the intellectually challenging movies we saw but by the one that made us happiest; a choice made necessary by a desire to honour the intensity of that joy. Let us carry that on into this list. Instead of placing one of the loathsome, misogynistic insults to humanity in the top spot — for surely Project X or This Means War would be right at home there — it only seems right to pick a bad movie that made me so happy, so sore from mocking laughter, that all I wanted to do was run around all the social networks quoting lines and posting clips and basically just worshipping at the altar of the most haphazard, clumsy, ugly and stupid movie since Madonna’s brilliantly dreadful W.E. In other words, Alex Cross is the perfect cinematic representation of James Patterson’s galactically monstrous novels, with its lead character — a grab-bag of contrived tics and dull virtue fighting to save the world from exhaustively-described maniacs who murder or violate every woman he loves — now brought to life not by Morgan Freeman, a man far too charismatic to embody this thinly-written void, but by his living equal; Tyler Perry, giving what is easily 2012’s most hilariously awkward performance, almost the match of SoC’s recent favourite, Chris Klein in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

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It’s impossible to encapsulate the myriad ways in which this colossal sack of shit entertained us recently, the sheer number of gaffes and howlers and WTF moments that poured from the screen like a deluge of rainbow-coloured diarrhoea. Suffice to say Rob Cohen has now jumped past Paul W.S. Anderson, Jon Avnet, and Robert Luketic to become SoC’s pick as the worst director currently working in cinema, a man who has channeled the spirit of Ed Wood to bring us a film of such hysterically wooden and ugly imperfection that the Rifftrax guys might have to take two or three runs at it to cover all of its nigh-infinite incompetence. From its clumsy blocking (actors stepping in front of each other so we can’t see them half the time) to its 100% pure-cliche screenplay (in other words, a totally accurate adaptation from the source material) to its woeful compositions and photography (easily worse than anything else in 2012); this goes beyond Lifetime movie or rejected TV pilot to find its own slot on the quality spectrum. It’s a distillation of every shitty cop drama you’ve ever seen, a compilation of the worst aspects of our culture, but done with such a straight face, with such cluelessness, that I loved it. And in case you think I should have picked one of the three previously-mentioned misogynistic films instead of something that’s just bad, that I’m being finicky for going after something for little more than being a bit shoddy, don’t worry; three of the five women in this film are murdered — two of them mutilated horribly — because that’s all cinema seemed to be this year. Just a never-ending bellow of horror at the mere existence of women, and even when a movie is dumb enough to be relatively harmless, we still have to endure the presence of this disgusting bullshit, because that’s apparently just the way it is now. Fuck you, cinema! FUCK YOU, WORLD!

Dishonorable Mentions:

The Raven: A transparent attempt to tap into the success of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, sadly this is reminiscent of the Hughes Brothers’ misfiring From Hell more than anything else. James McTeigue never gets a grip on the material or the tone; John Cusack’s obnoxious Edgar Allen Poe is overplayed, performances misfire and tension fails to materialise. I asked a passing raven if it thought McTeigue had a chance of making another movie; it said, and I quote, “NEVERMORE!” Bit harsh.

Chernobyl Diaries: Oren Peli continued to scramble to consolidate the slice of industry power provided by the success of Paranormal Activity with this Wrong Turn-esque horror film set in Chernobyl. Yes, that Chernobyl, the one in Russia, the one that was irradiated by a horrifying accident that changed the world. A perfectly tasteful location for a dumb exploitation flick, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s not even a good dumb exploitation flick; there’s no tension, no plot, just a long wait in some really interesting (non-Chernobyl) locations until everyone’s dead.

Step Up Revolution: SoC loves Step Up 3D, a movie with very little to recommend it other than the dancing, the one thing good enough that we recommend it constantly. This is worse, and the dancing’s so poorly shot that it lacks even that saving grace. Extra points for the heroes’ plot being remarkably stupid, using their incredible dance skills to gain enough YouTube hits to win a competition, staging flash mobs that could get them arrested, instead of trying to get jobs as dancers that would pay all of them, cumulatively, probably more than the prize money. Genius.

The Cold Light of Day: Hitchcock would have wept to see the state of the thriller genre today. This weirdly bland North By Noroeste plants bland Henry Cavill into a classic thriller template, trying to figure out who killed his somnabulent dad (Bruce Willis, between naps) while avoiding the police through touristy Spain. But the ramshackle plotting means characters only do things for convenience, not recognisable motivations, so even when it wakes up you don’t really care. I think in the end it was something to do with Mossad? In Euro-set thrillers it’s usually Mossad.

Ruby Sparks: A brilliant idea, indifferently brought to life with one great moment and a cop-out ending. At least, that’s the movie I saw. Friend-of-the-blog @DarkEyeSocket has passionately argued to me that the ending that so offended me (no spoilers, but from where I sat it seemed to invalidate the lesson learned by the odious protagonist) has a deeper meaning. Sadly, on first viewing I don’t agree, meaning I’m left with an bold idea about male expectations of relationships and the manipulation of partners that ultimately amounts to nothing. Sorry DES. :-(

More to come, as ever. For anyone who has come to Listmania! for the first time, you should know I really milk this for all its worth. You’ve been warned.

Why You Should Give John Carter A Chance To Blow Your Mind

BFI Southbank was invaded by emissaries from Mars last night, and they were remarkably pretty and polite. Shades of Caruso has said it before and it’ll say it again for new readers; seeing famous people in the flesh never gets old, and when that line-up includes Willem Dafoe and international megastar Taylor “Riggins” Kitsch himself, the levels of pre-movie excitement were almost unbearable. It’s enough to make one forgive the cinema for projecting John Carter as badly as it did, or to at least think there was something wrong with the deluxe 3D glasses provided. Nevertheless, during a very entertaining post-screening Q&A hosted by Garth Jennings, director Andrew Stanton pointed out that the projection was haywire. Considering how often this happens during the London Film Festival, this is no surprise.

That picture there is obviously incredibly indistinct (how anyone can make a movie with an iPhone’s crummy little camera is beyond me), but for clarity’s sake, the line-up shows Andrew Stanton, producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins, James Purefoy (Kantor Kan), Samantha Morton (Sola), a blurred Dominic West (Sab Than), Mark Strong (Matai Shang), Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkas), Lynn Collins (Dejah Thoris) and Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, obvs). Why am I telling you this? Because one of the most distressing tweets I read last night (from friend-of-the-blog and pop-culture expert @stayfrostymw) concerned how she was unaware that the movie had this cast (not to mention Bryan Cranston, Polly Walker, Thomas Haden Church and Ciarán Hinds). This is how poorly this movie has been promoted; one of the best casts of the year has not been exploited properly. Madness.

You’d think that with cinema currently embracing nostalgia in the face of modernity that Disney’s John Carter would be an enticing prospect for audiences, and one that could benefit from being tied in with this trend, but then you look at the slow pick-up in US box office for The Artist, the disappointing take for Hugo, and audience discomfort for such palpably old-fashioned confections as The Tourist (a big hit internationally but a fumble in the States), and you have to wonder if the considerable bad reputation of the yet-to-be-released John Carter is down to the bad promotional campaign and intensely, frighteningly stupid and panicky namechange, or just that American audiences don’t particularly want to look back right now.

Filmmakers seem to be eager to harken back to a time before movies were soiled by… well, whatever the hell they’re supposed to be soiled by; pick your poison from 3D, CGI, rapid editing, digital photography etc. etc. However that doesn’t match up with what the cinema-going public wants to see. The Transformers franchise is treated as the cancer that will devour Hollywood, but if that’s what people want, for better or worse, that’s just the way it is, and hating audiences for that gets us nowhere. We can merely hope that obscenely expensive “blockbusters” are made with a modicum of intelligence and passion; “big dumb summer movies” aren’t contractually obligated to have the word “dumb” in there.

These films can be done right. They can be big and human and crazy and grounded all at the same time. Cinema will always be a mixture of the intimate and “independent”, and the monolithic and numbing and corporate. If we’re going to go big, and make something on a scale that justifies attendance of public screenings on vast screens instead of waiting for Netflix to stream it in a year’s time, then we need the Epic to continue as a genre, and we need to pray to the Gods of cinema (John Ford, Howard Hawks, Buster Keaton and Ingmar Bergman) for the vegetables of intelligence to go with the steak of populism. And by God, John Carter is that fully balanced meal.

For those who have yet to hear the premise of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books (and certainly the woeful promotional campaign gives little sense of what it’s about), John Carter is a war-wearied and heartbroken Civil War veteran trying to make a living prospecting for gold in the unruly West, attempting to escape his past and the fighting that brought him nothing but misery. Through various mechanisms (underexplored in the books but here forming a central plank of the narrative), he finds himself on Mars, or Barsoom as it is known to its natives, where he is feted as a warrior with incredible powers caused by his superior earth-borne strength. He encounters incredible creatures, warring tribes, sinister supernatural forces, and the love of his life, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. As his story progresses he unites Mars, beats back the forces attempting to profit from the destruction of Mars, and gets the “girl”.

Whereas the ad campaign seems to have created the impression that the movie is some kind of baffling feature-length montage about a weedy Victorian gentleman pretending to be Conan the Barbarian or something, with a tidal wave of CGI that makes the dunder-headed and empty likes of Stephen Sommers’ filmography look like a Dogme festival. It’s really quite simple to promote, even if you’re not giving the full picture of this surprisingly complex but tightly plotted success. Just say this: “You know Star Wars and Flash Gordon and all those movies you loved when you were a kid? The daddy of those movies is back now, and he’s pissed at his kids for making him seem like an out-of-touch fossil.”

It might not be as camp as the beloved Mike Hodges / Lorenzo Semple Jr. Flash Gordon, or as concerned with trade disagreements and Macchiavellian politics as the Star Wars prequels, but John Carter is better made, smarter, funnier, and convincing than any of those movies. The most important factor in the considerable success of this lovable adventure is the enthusiasm and imagination of director Andrew Stanton and his collaborators Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon (yes, that Michael Chabon). They obviously adore Burroughs’ flight of fantasy, which reads like the out-of-control imagination-blurts of the smartest teenager ever to sit in front of a notebook with a fountainpen.

SoC has only read A Princess of Mars, but the mad gallop of invention was enough for about ten books. Here’s the impression given on first reading: Carter arrives on Barsoom (the native name for Mars) and meets and befriends the Tharks, fights against the Warhoon, woos Dejah Thoris, fights against white apes, resolves the familial troubles of his Thark friends Tars Tarkas and Sola, teaches their race how to love, fights the Zodangans, brokers a truce between the Tharks and the red Martians of Helium, discovers the atmosphere processor that keeps everyone on Mars alive (and learns telepathy in the process), and in the process criss-crosses Mars about 16 times. It’s a lot of fun, but coherent on a narrative level it’s not.

Stanton, Andrews and Chabon are obviously in love with this world, to the point that they manage to cram in not only the majority of this plot but also half of the second book, The Gods of Mars, which features the Barsoomian “afterlife”, the god Issus, and the creepy technologically superior Therns, who manipulate events in the universe for their own benefit. That’s a lot of event to add to a movie, but by stripping out unnecessary repetition (there’s a lot in the books) and simplifying the anthropological nature of Burroughs’ descriptions of Barsoomian culture (alluded to in the movie but dropped in favour of action and adventure), we get a pleasingly complicated movie with multiple dramatic set-ups, all with satisfying payoffs.

Part of the reason this multi-layered plot works, despite containing more exposition than a movie can usually handle, is because of the familiarity of many of the elements here; after all, they’ve influenced so many other tales over the last century, and were in turn influenced by stories told before that. The story of a mere soldier fighting for the love of a princess in a world riven by warfare and distrust is instantly recognisable, and the look of the movie harkens back to the artwork of old pulp fiction while also gleaming with modern production values.

Which is not to say the movie seems derivative. Quite the opposite, in fact. Stanton has run with the ideas presented in the novels, so on top of this familiar template he adds layers of invention and madness to make this feel utterly new. The unsettling bio-mechanical growth of the Thern’s technology, the walking city of Zodanga, the hyper-kinetic leaping of our hero as he flits around the screen with the ease of a God made flesh; the array of visual treats here is dizzying and thrilling. Stanton fills the frame with marvels, but never once does it overwhelm. It’s a world made real, as complete and convincing as James Cameron’s Pandora, but more lively, more informal. While Cameron was on a mission to prove that his new technology worked, and created a world to prove it, Stanton is running around in that playpen. His sense of joy is infectious.

So there is lightness here, and great humour, mostly from Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, and adorable sidekick Woola, though most of the main characters get a fair shake. James Purefoy’s Kantos Kan is obviously set up here as a more significant character in any sequel, as he’s given way more devilish charm than a forgettable side character should ever get. Nevertheless, there’s a dramatic heft too, and Stanton makes sure to give Carter an emotional obstacle to surmount that is far more elegant than the overly complicated relationship-delaying Martian manners subplot that keeps Carter and Thoris from consummating their love in the book.

Carter’s horrific past has tainted his soul and made him shy away from interaction with those around him, even as his naturally heroic nature keeps getting him into scrapes. We see him face his demons in the middle of the movie in a setpiece as brilliantly staged and visualised as I’ve ever seen. Some of the imagery therein, as Carter battles for the life of his beloved against the massed army of the Warhoon, took my breath away — the second time in the movie, after a bravura sequence involving Carter’s first meeting with Dejah left me agog and almost delirious with joy. In its best moments this is pure cinema, but then did anyone expect anything less from someone who could make something as elementally effective as the first half of Wall-E?

Stanton and his team of writers have also addressed the questionable politics of Burroughs’ outlook. Though it might seem churlish to complain about how Burroughs imagined his world considering it was written in such a different time, there is an unpleasant frisson when reading of how Carter brings civility and compassion to the primitive Tharks, rescuing his humanoid damsel in distress time and again as she faces enslavement or torture or even — in the most WTF-heavy passage — alien rape. Burroughs could have called it Noble Savages of Mars, to be honest, with Tars Tarkas progressing from Man Friday to Oroonoko thanks to the guidance of his white human friend. As I say, this isn’t really a dealbreaker, but it’s hard going for a handbag-clutching liberal such as myself.

John Carter the movie sees the Tharks treated a little better. The aggression of the Tharks is seemingly a clan-based matter, not a racial one, as these sympathetic creatures are compared to the utterly terrifying Warhoon, and are more accepting of Carter from the get-go. They are also convinced to join Carter’s fight against the Zodangans through reason, instead of it being a matter of our hero exploiting primitive Thark conventions to get them to kick off. It’s also telling that Stanton hints that the Tharks are in a more primitive state than the cultured and advanced humanoid Red Martians because of the interference of the evil Therns, an even more advanced race of European-esque pale villains that would make right-wing bloggers whine about their portrayal in the lib’rul meejah. They are The Man in ghostly white form, preventing the people of Barsoom from finding their feet.

This point is made lightly, however. The politics of Mars are not so heavily dictated by our own, thankfully, as turning this movie into an allegory for our own differences would ruin the tone of high adventure. The hints are there if you want to look for them but they’re embedded in the fabric of the movie in a way that certainly wasn’t the case for his sledgehammer-subtle Wall-E. I managed not to chortle during the Q&A that followed the BFI premiere when the utterly charming Stanton said that he didn’t like to make such points too obvious, considering the brazen agenda of his lovely Pixar sci-fi epic. I’m not saying I have a problem with it (again: I’m liberal), but that was not a subtle movie. In comparison, the comments in John Carter about how the advance of the walking city Zodanga is despoiling the Martian landscape are like feathers in the wind.

The portrayal of Dejah Thoris and the women of Barsoom is more subtle still, though pointed enough to warrant comment. The guards and aircraft pilots are female, which is treated matter-of-factly; Mars has much to teach us humans. The Dejah Thoris of Burrough’s books is strong enough to be a precursor of certain beloved women of fantasy and sci-fi, but is never really an agent in her future, tending to fall into trouble to be protected by John Carter. The Dejah Thoris so memorably personified by Lynn Collins, on the other hand, is a pioneering scientist and brave warrior who benefits from the help of John Carter but could probably survive without him. She saves his life at times, and their love comes from mutual respect, not servitude.

In fact, their meeting is caused not by happenstance, as are the majority of events in Burroughs’ books, but by her hasty departure from Helium after her father offers her up as a wife to evil Zadongan ruler (and Thern puppet) Sab Than; agency at last. Marriage to the odious oppressor would curtail her scientific research into the ninth-ray technology that would allow her race to save the planet from ecological meltdown, and so she flees for the sake of everyone — a rare instance of flight in a fictional work being borne of conviction, not cowardice.

Her imminent capture is foiled by John Carter but she ends up protecting him as much as he looks after her, and for much of the movie her dire fate at the hands of Sab Than and Thern leader Matai Shang is only a problem for her as she wrestles with the possibility that the easy route — marriage and an end to hostilities — is preferable to resistance, war, and the slim chance that she might be able to save Barsoom through her research. How rare to see a film give the female lead that much respect and responsibility.

And this is why I’m writing this, and tweeting about it every few minutes, and directly imploring the sci-fi and fantasy fans I know to see this movie on its opening weekend. The response I got after last night’s flurry of excited tweets was a mixture of disdain and concern that maybe I fell on my head and was imagining that Willem Dafoe was sitting three rows behind me (he totally was, you guys!). No one could believe it, which surprised me as I thought there had been a change in the tide, with critics coming out via Twitter to say they had a great time. But no. Apparently the consensus on John Carter that it’s a huge failure, an inevitable bomb, a warning to all studios to abandon waste and ambition and hubris, so that we never see another movie like John Carter again.

To which I say FUCK THAT. We need John Carter more now than ever. Yes, it’s too expensive. Yes, it seems a bit anachronistic. Yes, it’s naive to think that an audience would embrace something like this when there’s going to be another G.I. Joe movie this summer and that’s what the kids want nowadays. But goddamn it, I’ve seen enough good movies falter because of early negative reports or the gleeful malicious gossip of those who revel in the failure of expensive movies, not to mention the mindset displayed last night when numerous concern-troll questions were asked of Stanton, basically egging him on to decry the overuse of CGI and the pressure placed on him to post-convert the movie into 3D. He was a gentleman about it, of course.

Guys, the money is spent now, and the failure of John Carter will not put off studios from making big movies. They’ll just make them quicker and more generic, they’ll take less time to get it right, and they’ll ignore the input of smart filmmakers like Stanton in favour of committee thinking that removes any spark of imagination or joy. Damning John Carter before seeing it, or stating that it’s an inevitable failure prior to release, does nothing to improve cinema. It deters audiences from discovering it when right now it needs all the cheerleaders it can get to mitigate the dire promotional campaign.

This is a movie that has the chance to fire the imagination of millions of future moviegoers and filmmakers, to become the culture-enhancing hit of the year. We could all benefit from its success, and to deny it a chance is tantamount to spiteful vandalism. Sure, if you don’t like it that’s fair enough, criticise away. But if you’re just firing arrows at it because you enjoy shooting at things, then the only thing you’ll hit is your own foot. So I implore everyone who reads this; if you like high adventure, and are interested in seeing something light and fun and vibrant and imaginative, something with spectacular vistas and sumptuous design, a sense of romance and vision, something with remarkable characters played with total conviction by great actors, fantastic creatures and dazzling concepts and an epic sweep, you need to see John Carter. Please give it a chance.

The 2009-2010 Caruso Awards: The Worst Episodes of the Year (10-1)

The bottom ten episodes of the year have a few things in common, usually revolving around some pretty unevolved views on women or by treating IRL issues as some kind of ghoulish entertainment. Guess I’m becoming even more of a prude as I get older, but I really cannot stand stories about rapists or serial killers, with the exception of Hannibal Lecter, who is very refined and loves opera: the Frasier Crane of cannibals, you might say. In recent years TV has been great at exploring the human condition to a greater degree than it has ever tried to before, but even with shows like Dexter — which attempt to make darkly humorous light from an unpleasant subject — it’s too damn hard to create drama from the subject without crossing lines.

Perhaps this is why I prefer shows like The Shield or Breaking Bad: we see people who might have been good end up making the wrong decisions. Though Dexter fans will argue that the show does a good job of showing a bad man try to do good, the characterisation doesn’t really move on from that initial point. Can a serial killer be a good person, or will his urges win out? After four seasons you’d think they’d find something new to say, or give us at least some insight, but instead we just get that persistent expository voiceover. Oh man, just thinking about that show is depressing me…

The other theme here is the bad state of UK drama, as evidenced by the sad presence of so many UK shows on this list. Interesting chats on Twitter over the past few months have illuminated the current state of UK drama, that the vast amount of superfluous executives clogging the system have made it impossible to make a show that doesn’t talk down to the audience. I only managed one episode of The Deep before giving up, knowing that I would end up having to watch an hour of drama dragged out to five hours through all the exposition and pointless shots of people moving from one place to the other. I’m a fan of clear geography in an action show or film, but I can figure out that someone’s gone from one room to another without seeing them do it.

Filmmakers are coming out to complain more regularly now: Michael Caton-Jones memorably complained about script problems on Spooks just this week, complaining about interference. From a comment piece in The Herald:

“There are lots of layers of people who don’t do very much, most of whom couldn’t get arrested in film,” he said. “There are committees of people who work on scripts, to no real end. In fact, they’re known to directors as The Programme Prevention Unit.”

Mr Caton-Jones said he often finds himself shaking his head at some of the simplistic dialogue and the storylines. “Some of the set-ups are so predictable it’s like watching an episode of Charlie’s Angels,” he said.

“In Spooks, for example, one actress had all these lines to reveal what it meant for her to meet someone after years, and they were all so trite. I took a pencil through them and said, ‘Show me what you’re feeling’ and she did. And she felt a lot better for it. The actors are so good on that series they manage to make it work.”

It’s enough to make you hope things will change if enough creative folk speak up, but I doubt it. I want it too, though. I know the UK is filled with magnificent and talented writers and directors who could easily make shows to challenge the current US dominance. Unfortunately they’re blocked from doing this by ranks of people who have no idea what a creative artist needs to do his job. It’s heartbreaking.

Anyway, enough of that. On with the horror show.

10. Heroes - Thanksgiving

Congratulations, Heroes! Your third season was so utterly, unforgivably dire that SoC couldn’t pick a loser, but this year only about half of your episodes were worthy of this list, while the rest were merely forgettable. This counts as progress: not that this matters what with your cancellation, several years too late. The bad episodes were mostly just perfect examples of how the fourth season was trying hard to take a handful of story-dough and make a vast plot-pizza: perhaps if the show had only had eight episodes we might have had something more coherent. Instead we got hour after hour of ShinyWaxClaire falling out with her dad and/or audience-baiting chaste bi-sexual Gretchen, a laughably over-extended arc for “Nathan”, way too much of Gregg Grunberg looking panicky and yelling at everything in his line of sight, and Sylar, Sylar, Sylar. Though Heroes was improved by an episode-to-episode focus on single themes, it remained tedious and unintentionally funny. Thanksgiving has to be the most risible episode: it’s little more than an hour of families arguing over dinner. It’s as static as you can imagine, with a lot of bad acting being shot across the rubber turkeys and plastic pumpkin pies, and only Robert Knepper making an effort. Will Claire drop out of school? Will Noah get laid? Will “Nathan” turn back into Sylar, or is Adrian Pasdar contracted for another episode or two? Is anyone truly sad this thrill-ride got closed down for health and safety violations?

9. The Prisoner – Darling

Much as I love Lost, the terrible legacy it has given us is a rash of TERRIBLY MYSTERIOUS sci-fi shows that do their best to hide their secrets behind a veil of unusual events and cryptic clues. Almost all of these shows are at least comprehensible on a surface level, but not AMC/ITV’s remake of Patrick McGoohan’s classic 60s paranoia series. On every level the show is visual, aural, and narrative gibberish, but then the secret at the heart of the show is that it’s technically all a kind of dream anyway. The showrunners take this as a cue to throw out the rulebook and just film whatever they feel like, which means non-sequitur editing, ciphers instead of characters, a soundscape that makes it impossible to follow what is going on, etc. In this disastrous episode, we see Hayley “Rather Pretty” Atwell pass out for no reason in the real world, then appear as a blind woman in the Village because why not? She’s in love with 6 and he’s in love with her, which puts Ruth “Eyebrows” Wilson’s 313 right out. But in the end these ciphers are only in love with each other because dastardly Number 2 (who is dastardly because of Reason X, it turns out) has made them fall in love using some scientific potion involving DNA. Brilliant! Except they’re in a dreamworld and therefore technically have no DNA. Is it a metaphor? A satire on modern dating techniques? Or is it another mildly interesting idea thrown at the screen with no exploration or insight or reason, just to add more TERRIBLY MYSTERIOUS MYSTERIOUSNESS to the proceedings? One thing’s for sure: these non-characters are suddenly robbed of even that little bit of personality, reducing them to game pieces in a game with no rulebook. The atmospherics might be interesting, but with no real narrative, who cares?

8. Glee - Theatricality

Yes, this was featured in the Best of the Year poll. No, this is not a typing error. While Theatricality shows the best of Glee, it is also heavily encumbered with the worst as well. Much as I loved the confrontation scene with Kurt’s father and Finn, to get to that point we had to put up with yet more of the excruciating plot with Kurt pining for the lunk-headed football player and trying everything he can to seduce him. In trying to dramatise the confused feelings of a young gay man, they also made him look semi-psychotic: almost certainly unintentional, but still hard to swallow, especially when the showrunners pull their usual trick of selectively forgetting this aspect of Kurt’s personality whenever the “plot” requires. Nevertheless, this was nothing compared to the episode’s most egregious sins: removing Sue Sylvester from the episode in order to fit in a bunch of guff about Lady Gaga; closing the episode with a PSA-style speech from Will that bangs the audience over the head with this week’s themes in a way that is even less subtle than usual, and bringing the hastily-introduced Rachel/Shelby plot to a close with a catastrophically ill-considered piano version of Gaga’s Poker Face. It’s not the first time Glee ruins a moment by using a song that only matches the onscreen events because of a single line in a chorus, but this goes beyond even that. Lea Michele and Idina Menzel are both fine performers and incredible singers, but are here suddenly rendered robotic by overuse of Autotune, and then forced to bring some kind of emotional truth to this moment using a song that simply does not fit with what is going on, and has only been chosen because this episode is meant to pay tribute to a ubiquitous Europop mannequin. Truly the lowpoint of the series.

7. Paradox - Episode 3

As this post progresses, you’ll see a trend developing regarding thriller plots involving super-creepy male predators chasing women. The difference is that while an American show like Dexter will give us nuanced performances from heavy hitters like Michael C. Hall or John Lithgow (who deserved all the praise he got over the last year), we get creepy creepy men in creepy creepy clothes being as obviously evil as possible. We also get no insight into their pathology. While this means at least we don’t hover over the grisly details, it also means there is no context or reason to tell the story. It’s just women-in-peril nonsense, trying to make a too-real concern into the stuff of frivolous entertainment. Not that Paradox counts as entertainment. The BBC’s “homage” to Quantum Leap, Early Edition and Deja Vu shows a bunch of ill-defined and very tense cops who team up with some needlessly bureaucratic government types and a dour and eccentric scientist to decode images from God’s brain (or another universe) and stop catastrophes hours before they occur. The ever-so-slightly more bearable hours of this show play with that format a bit: this one tries to con the audience by introducing three potential rapists (and one handsy “nice guy”) and then having our “heroes” bicker about which is the one to arrest. Cue lots of shouting and running back and forth across Manchester in a desperate attempt to make it seem like something is going on. The director of this abomination — Simon Cellan-Jones — has directed many great hours of TV, including Treme‘s Smoke My Peace Pipe, which was one of my favourites of the year. The existence of this bullshit can be used as proof that right now the BBC doesn’t even know how to utilise its talent anymore. Stay in the States, Simon!

6. Outnumbered - Episode 7

As with many shows, the moment a secret keeper – ignored by critics and audiences – is finally recognised as something worth watching is when the wheels come off. The third season had wonderful moments, but the seventh episode was unforgivable. Angela returns to pester her sister Sue once more, this time with a boorish American husband, improbably named Brick and played with galumphing broad strokes by the usually dependable Douglas Hodge. Poking fun at Angela’s New Age dribblings had provided some amusing moments in the past, especially when her original middle-class programming comes crashing unexpectedly to the forefront, but all we have here are tired “jokes” about how Americans are all so confident and brash and stupid. With the kids sidelined, much of the show’s trademark improvisation is removed in favour of unconvincing histrionics and the snobbery of this offensive stereotypical depiction sucking the energy from everything around it, and when we do get some input from the kids, it’s awfully vanilla. Only the bleak final scene with Sue and Pete lying to their son Jake about the state of their marriage saves it from being a total failure, and even that achievement is dimmed by the fact that the main arc of the season (Pete’s “infidelity”) is so trivial compared to previous ones (domestic violence, Alzheimers) that the torrent of drama it unleashes stretches credibility.

5. V – John May

Mid-season fixes are a normal consequence of showrunners realising there are elements in their new shows that just don’t work. Vampire Diaries got rid of a cast member in memorable style after only a few episodes, killing one of the leads off and then wiping the memory of the one person who cared about her so it wouldn’t get in the way until later. FlashForward tinkered with tone and made slight improvements, but nothing too drastic. If you had hoped that V, which had opened with one of the worst and stupidest pilots in recent years, would make big changes, you were mistaken. The only real differences between early and late episodes were the removal of GeorgiePorgy, who had seemed terribly out of place from the first time he had burst onto set like a slightly more butch Bert Viola, and the introduction of action man and anti-hero Kyle Hobbes, who is approximately 0.0003523% as cool as Michael Ironside’s iconic Übermensch Ham Tyler from the original series. Neither change mattered: it was, from beginning to end, a truly catastrophic show, the worst sci-fi TV series since the Sci-Fi Channel’s Flash Gordon, except even more unimaginative. This episode saw the death of GeorgiePorgy after being tortured with robot insects or something equally complicated (just shut his hand in a door! God!), and the first sighting of resistance leader John May, who was, years before, hunted by Ryan Nichols, member of the elite cadre of badass resistance fighters whose fighting tactic is to stand in a circle and yell at each other. We also see Ryan’s conversion to the Fifth Column by John May, who seems to win him over by boring him into submission. Luckily, the viewer is made of stronger stuff, and can utilise the option of rebelling against the stupidity with the use of channel-changing technology.

4. Defying Gravity – Threshold

I’ll be honest. One of the main reasons I took against Defying Gravity was that even if it ended up cancelled after one short season, it at least managed to hang on longer than potential classic Virtuality, which wasn’t even picked up for a second episode. Even with that bitterness in mind, the third episode of ABC’s cross between Mission To Mars and Grey’s Anatomy was excruciating to watch. With a soundtrack of plinky-plonky “It’s Comedy!” music setting the tone, we flashback to the Antares crew’s training years at the time they are given their “HALO” libido-suppressing tech. This leads to a reverse of Seinfeld’s “Master-of-my-Domain” plot, with the stupid men betting against the giggling women who reckon they can’t get an erection despite all the boner-killing juice flowing through their bodies. This leads them to a stripclub where there is much chatter about gender equality, exploitation of women, manipulation of potential partners, etc. That’s on the female astronauts’ side of the room. The men are, of course, whooping and hollering about the boob-parade. Throughout this we also get to hear lots of agonising from Zoe about the abortion she had to have in order to qualify as an astronaut, because of course she’s just a baby-crazy woman and choosing her career couldn’t possibly fulfill her like that baby could have. What else can you expect from a show that introduces a happy promiscuous woman with the intention of revealing she was born intersexed, was male-dominant but made female by her parents, and would have been turned into a man by an alien deus-ex-machina in later episodes? Get in those gender boxes, ladies and gents, that’s what they’re there for!

3. Luther - Episode Three

Oh how I laughed at Luther. Oh how I obsessed about Luther! I’ll happily admit that once it revealed that it was actually one big crazy story in five parts instead of an episodic tale of combustible Loofah catchin’ crims an’ killahs on the mean streets of Lahhndan, I fell in love with it a little bit more. The last two episodes of this short season weren’t good TV, but by Jove they were fun. The finale out-NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’d Revenge of the Sith ten times over. No mean feat. Nevertheless, as I stressed in this post earlier this year, it doesn’t excuse this unpalatable hour. The usual showy but ugly compositions were in full effect, as was Ruth “Yes, She Still Has Amazing Eyebrows” Wilson hamming it up as the anti-Loofah, the introduction of DSU Martin Schenk (who appears to have been possessed by the ghost of late-career Donald Pleasance), and the great man himself, DJ Big Driis, goin’ all maverick in order to collah the hysterically overwrought and demonic serial killah — Paul Rhys, showing off all of the tricks he learned at the Sir Anthony Hopkins School of Serial Killer Tics. All very amusing, except that it also featured a victim who is generously given one or two lines of normal dialogue right at the start of the episode before spending the next 40 minutes whimpering in terror and then dying offscreen. After that? Her corpse just a prop for Loofah to nail ‘is man by bendin’ the law. So I suppose her last few hours, filmed in extreme lascivious close-up, served some purpose, other than to be very gritty indeed. A thoroughly nasty episode, one that does the BBC’s drama department no favours. Being edgy only really works when it serves a purpose other than titillation, and the feeble, surface-level exploration of “morality” here is not reason enough.

2: Dexter - Blinded By The Light

Speaking of “edgy” shows “exploring” humanity’s darker nature, four seasons in, Dexter is still asking the same questions about its protagonist: can an emotionally compromised “good” serial killer find a way to reconcile his urge to kill and his growing need to connect with society? Whether this internal battle is worth dramatising at such length is something only the viewer can answer. Fans are transfixed as Michael C. Hall does his usual great work in making a murderer seem charming, while skeptics writhe in eternal agony as the show crawls towards a point over what feels like a million episodes loaded with clunky voiceovers, time-filling sub-plots involving ineptly sketched and poorly performed characters, and lascivious “adult” content including gratuitous boob shots or gore. Of course, we mustn’t forget the moral quandaries that don’t make any sense — either emotionally or logically — but are provided to give the illusion of depth to the tawdry proceedings. It’s CSI: Miami with a light dusting of faux-complexity and dollops of “adult content”. Whenever the Caruso Awards has to pick a worst episode, the problem is that the show exists as a continuum of overrated fail, so which one to choose? Blinded By The Light wins out for the sub-plot with a guy, recently laid-off and grieving for his dead wife, going around Dexter’s neighbourhood vandalising the property of the rich folk. Because that’s what people do when they’re unemployed: go off the rails and spout angry speeches about “making them pay”. That extra layer of insulting “topical” ignorance pushes this episode below the rest. God, I really hate serial killer stories.

1. Modern Family – Come Fly With Me

As mentioned before, Shades of Caruso will stick with shows long after they have annoyed, and so it was that we ignored our instant dislike of the pilot and watched this excruciating half-hour of weak punchlines and oleaginous sentimentality. Buffoonish omega-male Phil attempts to bond with macho father-in-law Jay, who is obsessing over the model plane he bought for his step-son Manny. The accident that occurs is sign-posted so heavily it goes past obviousness, past comedically-obvious obviousness, into anti-comedic clanging predictability. Even worse, the upshot of it all is the resolution — a difference-healing group hug between the dopey guys while the sensible ladies look on with simpering grins. Even worse than that is the sub-plot with Cameron teaching Mitchell the joys of Costco’s low prices and wide range of products. A bit of product placement is one thing: e.g. 30 Rock has skated close to the fire but makes sure to wink at the camera: it doesn’t excuse it, but it makes it palatable, at least. Here we get a laugh-free series of shots of Mitchell expressing shock at the INCREDIBLE BARGAINS. If it were a smarter show I’d think it was satirising product placement, but there’s no flip to the joke. We find out that Costco has a lot of bargains, and Mitchell loves it. End of sub-plot.

EVEN WORSE THAN EVEN THAT EVEN is Alex’s plot. She’s a young brainy girl who resists wearing dresses — a conflict that looks like it might be resolved in an interesting manner — before her hot and sexy step-aunt convinces her to love dresses because that’s how you make the boys like you. Somewhere Betty Friedan — who gets name-checked at one point, seemingly only to make a point that this show is post-stupid-old-feminism — is spinning in her grave. The difference in awfulness between this episode and the episode of Dexter at number two is an exponential curve on top of another exponential curve on top of a turd souffle. Nth power awfulness. No earthly measurement system can chart its evil. Someone drive a stake through its bastard heart and save our souls!

I intend to hand out more awards — both good and bad — though my initial plans to be done by the end of the week might not happen now. It’s taken longer to get done than I had feared, as you can tell from the gargantuan nature of all this ranting. Bear with me: I’ll shout for regular readers on Twitter and Facebook, and brace myself for accidental pagehits from Dexter and Modern Family fans, who may want to stab me for my heresy.

Further To Canyon’s Mates of State Post

A couple of days ago Canyon posted about Mates of State, whose most recent album, Re-Arrange Us, is our joint favourite album of the year. It is sheer pop brilliance, seemingly light and fluffy but musically complex (Pitchfork thought otherwise). It has not left my iPod since we got it. However, I was sad that the incredible song The Re-Arranger didn’t appear on YouTube. Nothing I can do about that, of course.

However, a day later, I realised there was a technique for creating videos for songs, after seeing this wonderful collage of images culled from public domain films, here used by locke325 to accompany Panda Bear’s Take Pills, from my favourite album of last year, Person Pitch.

For the record, I’m disavowing that one for its reliance on a specious comparison that gets made by over-emotional people, and am disgusted by the inflammatory juxtaposition between the audio of the newsreel and the visuals of an evil dictator addressing his followers. I think it’s disgraceful that a comparison appears to have been made between the Republicans, who are entitled to their beliefs, their leadership, who represent those beliefs, and the fascist regime on Mongo.