Sunday, 29 December 2013


This has been a much more difficult list than the Top Ten. Not because there weren't enough bad films to compile a list - far from it - but exactly what order they should be in. I've been wrestling with whether X is worse than Y or better than Z and to be honest I'm not sure it matters that much. Oddly, none of these atrocities is a found-footage movie (there's one in the runners-up), meaning that directors have come up with ways to make their films royally stink while not making them look like they were shot by nine-year-olds. In addition, it's probably worth asking why so few of the Top Ten and so many of the Bottom Ten are horror films: how can I be a real horror fan when the genre punishes me so frequently?

Anyway, this is probably as close as I can get on a sliding scale of worthlessness, given that none of them - NONE OF THEM - are worth anything at all. Again, only films which had a theatrical release in the UK during 2013 (as listed on Launching Films) qualify, which is why Dark Tourist (aka Grief Tourist) and The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill aren't on the list.

Three idiot girls go camping on an island, three psycho douchebags turn up; rape and murder ensue. Ugly, glum, boring.

It's not funny for a single second, it has nothing interesting to say about TV news, and Will Ferrell is hateful. Hell, it's not even as good as the first one, and that was scarcely a comedic milestone.

Of course, Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on bad comedy. Here, scores of sitcom veterans and comedy legends can't counteract the humour vacuum of Danny Dyer, and an apparently hilarious night at the theatre is transformed into a bewildering dud on the screen.

Michael Bay's idea of a satirical black comedy about true crime is like Natural Born Killers as performed by the Three Stooges. Sadly, it's still directed by Michael Bay.

Yet another comedy that isn't funny, even by the already subterranean standards of the Scary Movie sequels. This time it mostly spoofs Mama - scarcely a monster hit - and 2010's Black Swan. None of it works, obviously.

Nonsensical and uninteresting semi-sequel released in 3D, for no reason beyond screwing a few more coins out of the audience. Incredibly, it isn't even as well made as Marcus Nispel's rubbish reboot.

Near-unwatchable playlist of shorts, most of which are not just indifferently made but relying on the lamest of shock tactics (miscarriage, wanking, flatulence) to get by. Two okay segments out of twenty-six is an outrageously poor batting average.

The apocalypse stuff is fine; unfortunately it's befalling a houseful of morally repugnant and talentless stoner shitbags with the combined comedic appeal of the Graf Spee, so you're pretty much on Team Satan from the start. Despicable.

Pretty but incomprehensible load of wank that would barely scrape an E- as a first year Media Studies project. The idea that this tripe is actually the work of one of the UK's top film directors is laughable.

A disaster movie in which a trio of loathsome arseholes and some totty with low standards are caught up in an earthquake; the second half is mostly concerned with rape because the makers are idiots. Pretty much as tiresome as you can get.

More terrible movies: The Bay, Frances Ha (spent the whole time wanting someone to slap her), The Heat, Man Of Steel, The Last Exorcism Part II, Hyde Park On Hudson, Evil Dead (the remake), Simon Killer, In Fear and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Bring on 2014.


The last glints of December's fading sunshine on 2013's rooftops....time again for a Top Ten Films Of The Year. As usual, this is for films that had a UK premier theatrical release in the calendar year, according to Launching Films' schedules, thus movies that played festivals only and/or went straight to disc aren't eligible (sadly this invalidates two of my favourite FrightFest screenings, Last Days and Odd Thomas, which are headed for DVD next year). It's also worth pointing out that this differs slightly from the Top 10 I submitted to the Hey U Guys poll, as I hadn't seen one of the films at that point and I'd completely forgotten about another.

It's terrific stuff: admittedly slightly disappointing in that its not quite in the Inglourious Basterds league, but it's brilliantly made and written, and great fun if you're a film nerd. Even Tarantino's what-the-hell stab at an accent couldn't derail it.

The late entry in this year's cinemagoing, and an absolutely lovely little film concerning the genesis of Disney's film of Mary Poppins. Even though I care naught for Poppins and don't ever want to see it again, this is charming, well played, and sentimental without being icky.

Phwoooar! Frankly, if you went to this superb French relationship drama just to see the raincoat-worthy explicit sex scenes between two comely young lesbians, then [1] you were robbed because they only add up to about ten minutes of the three-hour running time, and [2] you're an idiot.

Beautifully photographed in black and white (albeit digitally), a serious character drama that's very funny in places, while not being any kind of comedy. Liked it a lot, and it's great to see Bruce Dern in anything, especially a meaty lead. Marvellous.

How could I have forgotten this one? Thrilling stuff, even if you don't give a hoot about Formula 1, with dazzling race sequences and great 1970s period detailing.

The best of the summer blockbusters, trumping the initially similar Transformers bores by (literally) putting human beings into the giant smashy robots, and having a sense of fun and a sense of humour amidst the mass destruction.

A gathering of the world's most recognisable movie stars go batshit crazy in the dressing up box and put on dozens of funny voices in this bonkers, multi-stranded Everything Is Connected baffler. Never mind the dreary awards bait, let's have more of this sort of rampant craziness.

Are we really losing Steven Soderbergh? I do hope not because this gloriously twisty thriller is the sort of solid, mid-range, mid-budget gem that's been squeezed out of the industry in recent years and frankly we could do with more of them.

Dizzying, dazzling two-hander with pixel-perfect CGI, 3D that isn't a gimmicky distraction, and an incredible 17-minute single opening shot, all supporting but not overwhelming the simplest story of all: Sandra Bullock tries to get home. Best seen on the biggest screen you can find, as it's going to look rubbish on even a 60-inch HDTV.

Absolutely adored this: even Gravity was never going to unseat it from the #1 slot. A triumph, and a revelation for Gemma Arterton, of whom I've never been a fan.

Honourable mentions to a perfectly decent set of runners-up: Zero Dark Thirty, World War Z, Hummingbird (the best Jason Statham film of the year), Fast & Furious 6, Thor: The Dark World, Much Ado About Nothing, Escape Plan (yes, I liked it), Mud, Behind The Candelabra and The Conjuring. Now bring on 2014.

Thursday, 26 December 2013



If only it had been better made. On the level of pure visual disgust and revulsion this low-budget Canadian body horror/drama is a stunning achievement with several scenes causing me to wince or to look away: the physical and makeup effects are genuinely impressive. But on a technical level it's an absolute chore to get through its mere 97 minutes or so: the filmmaking basics are of a shockingly low standard, with the image frequently out of focus, dialogue poorly recorded, and actors cut off the frame by bad camera placement as if they'd just plonked the camera on the floor themselves and performed without being able to see if they were actually visible. A deliberate aesthetic choice or just incompetence? Even the dreaded found footage doesn't usually look this ugly.

Apparently Thanatomorphose is defined as "the visible signs of an organism's decomposition caused by death". An unnamed woman (Kayden Rose) leads a joyless existence in a glum apartment: the sex with her charmless lover isn't fulfilling, her artistic drive has faded. Then she gradually starts decomposing, her hair and fingernails falling out, her skin bruising and blotching. No cause is suggested, but presumably her life is so empty and pointless there's really no reason to wait until death before falling apart. Yet rather than call a doctor or an ambulance, she continues to putrefy....

Less of a zombie film (although she is quite literally the living dead) and more of a slow-paced, grim and miserable character piece with frank nudity in the early scenes and an unnerving (and in all honestly unnecessary) focus on bodily fluids, Thanatamorphose is absolutely no fun to watch and was in retrospect probably a bad choice of DVD for Christmas Eve! I haven't been as depressed and revolted by a horror film in many years, probably since Jorg Buttgereit's Schramm or Nekromantik.  But the technical shoddiness, of the dialogue rendered indecipherable, the images more often than not out of focus (not helped by the signifcantly below-HD picture resolution anyway) and the actors frequently ending up out of the static camera's eyeline, undoes all the undeniably good fleshy FX work. There is no reason why this couldn't have been made to look like a proper film rather than a video diary or a Skype call, and it's this decision, to either settle for the low-res imagery or to deliberately employ it, that kills it. Impossible therefore to really recommend.


Sickbags on standby:

Tuesday, 24 December 2013



It's telling that the kerfuffle of the last few days, in which this sequel has been cut in order to appease the MPAA and obtain the shiny PG13 rating, whereas we get the full version with all the rudery intact, is far more interesting than the film itself. You kind of knew this anyway: it's yet another movie in which Will Ferrell plays a tedious, ignorant blowhard with absolutely no sense of humour, so, as with the first film, laughs were always going to be thin on the ground. Certainly there was little audible laughter when I saw it at the Cineworld in Fulham Road: an interesting contrast with the buttcam version that's already online (surreptitiously filmed in an American cinema on a mobile phone), where the packed audience were genuinely enjoying themselves and laughing pretty much throughout. Okay, there were only about 20 people in my screening, but even so you'd have thought some of the laughs would be audible.

In the event there's only one decent gag in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and that comes early on from Harrison Ford as the studio head who finally fires the idiotic Ron Burgundy. But it's the arrival of the first 24-hour rolling news channel that brings Burgundy and his team (including Paul Rudd and Steve Carell) back onto screens, dispensing with the notion that news should be about important stuff the public needs to hear, and invents "dumbing down" by replacing The News with the kind of soft trivia, vulgarity, cute animals and stupidity that the public wants. He gets it on with his boss (leading to a jaw-droppingly misjudged dinner sequence that even by the low standards of the rest of the film is frankly embarrassing), goes blind, reconnects with his ex-wife and son, befriends a shark and saves the day against the might of Real News....

It's not that there aren't any jokes in the movie - as evidenced by the American audience braying and cackling at every stupid line - but none of them work. Burgundy is an idiot, but unlike the great heroic failures of comedy we're never given any reason to root for him, like him, or want to spend any time with him: he's not a lovable buffoon but a racist halfwit. Meanwhile, Steve Carell's imbecilic weatherman Brick gets the bulk of the theoretical jokes by randomly blurting out non sequiturs and shouting, but rather than laughing you just wonder why he hasn't been sectioned. Strangely, thanks to the Harrison Ford connection, the newscaster comedy it reminds you of is actually Morning Glory, which is a throwaway Rachel McAdams romcom of very little substance, but it's far more likeable and funnier than Anchorman 2.

Really, it's just not worth the effort and for all the uncredited star cameos in the overblown last act (including Sacha Baron Cohen putting on another funny voice to even less effect than his gay Frenchman role in Ferrell's otherwise worthless Talladega Nights) it's just not funny, hooting Americans notwithstanding. Is it a national thing? Our idea of rolling news is the BBC's News 24 channel, and we don't appear to have the kind of American newstainment channels parodied in Anchorman 2 - at least until Gavin Esler or Sophie Raworth start smoking crack, talking frankly about genitals or swearing on camera. Let's hope not. And let's hope this is the last outing for Ron Burgundy.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013



It's odd that, just as 1997 gave us two volcano disaster movies, and 1998 gave us two asteroid disaster movies, 2013 has given us two apocalypse-based comedies. I haven't seen The World's End yet, but can state that even if it consists of nothing but Simon Pegg firing dead babies into the side of a shed with a trebuchet, it's going to be leagues better than this smug, offensive, needlessly profane, theologically confused and thoroughly unfunny parade of lowbrow smut, stoner idiocy and yelling, full of self-regarding narcissists who aren't nearly as funny as they think they are.

This Is The End basically concerns the alleged cream of Hollywood's comedy talent (Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel) as themselves, going to a huge party at Franco's house and behaving like obnoxious, arrogant dicks. Meanwhile God, not before time, sets off the Apocalypse: the good and saintly are magicked into Heaven while the selfish and worthless are left on a burning Earth beset by massive fire demons. Our heroes hole up in the house, shout, swear, smoke huge quantities of dope and continue to behave like obnoxious, arrogant dicks. Jonah Hill gets possessed, they sort-of spoof The Exorcist for a bit; meanwhile McBride becomes a cannibal king (and Channing Tatum is his bitch).

On one level it doesn't matter that the versions of Rogen, Franco and McBride on screen are so boring and repugnant that you simply don't give a toss what happens to them. That's part of the joke, they're sending themselves up. Halfway through the film everyone decides to ignore the Armageddon happening right outside the front window, and instead get massively stoned and make a sequel to Pineapple Express (a film that by rights should have ensured that none of these people were ever allowed on a film set ever again) on video. Oh, aren't we being clever and self-referential and hip and ironic?

Verbally it's a deeply offensive film. The "Parent's Guide" on the film's IMDb page suggests there are 330 uses of the F-word, which for a film that runs 105 minutes and 26 seconds equates to one F-bomb every 19.1697 seconds. Just to put that in perspective: that's half as sweary again as Scarface, in a film running over an hour shorter. Why? Because between them, these top-ranking A-list professional comedians cannot come up with one single joke, one well-timed sight gag, one glimmer of wit, so let's just swear a bit more. I murdered my inner Mary Whitehouse decades ago, but this movie somehow managed to reanimate her when Martyrs, A Serbian Film, I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust and Crack Whore Gang Bang #19 couldn't raise a blink from the dead old bat.

Let's not touch too heavily on the theological confusion: God torches the planet and takes the good people to Heaven, leaving the selfish, vile and vulgar scum behind (mysteriously including poor Emma Watson, who gets to shout a few F-words because it's funny and not remotely embarrassing). They can of course redeem themselves: at which point they end up in a Heaven where everything they want is theirs for the imagining. Our freshly redeemed heroes, who've spent their Earth years getting stoned and behaving like spoiled infants, arrive in the afterlife and immediately conjure up some spliffs and start dancing along to the Backstreet Boys. That's what Heaven is like? Drugs and shitty music?

It's utter rubbish: dull, loud, crude and coarse, no jokes, no laughs, nothing and no-one worth caring about. Sure, the giant CGI demon rampaging through the fiery rubble of Los Angeles makes for a decent apocalypse, but just as the love stories of Titanic and Pearl Harbor didn't trigger an emotional connection when spectacular disaster struck (because I'm not a 14-year old schoolgirl), so the hedonistic antics of Hollywood's top douchebags didn't make me give a damn when Satan was suddenly loosed upon them (because I'm not an oafish imbecile). One of the year's, and most likely the decade's, very worst.


Saturday, 7 December 2013



I have to confess I am not massively up on French cinema. Not through a phobia of subtitles, of course: in fact I'm more than happy to watch films from France, Spain, Mexico, or Japan. It's mainly down to that age old problem of finding these films on a wide enough release. Most films that aren't in English (or more specifically, American) barely get any kind of national distribution, and for those of us whose cinematic interests stretch a little further than the latest special effects eyegasm, it can sometimes be difficult and/or expensive to seek them out. Happily, a few oddities do slip through the cracks from time to time.

Populaire is a strange but surprisingly enjoyable piece of retro French fluff in which emotionally constipated insurance agent Louis (Romain Duris) attempts to turn his clumsy new secretary Rose (Deborah Francois) into the speed typing champion of the world. Deep down, of course, he is falling in love with her but he cannot bring himself to say anything, while she is looking for something more in a man than his many ingenious techniques to improve her typing speeds. Can they sort out their emotional complications as she progresses through the local, regional, national and ultimately the world championships?

The film really is nothing but a light, empty meringue: it's a perfectly entertaining puff of romantic whimsy with a lovely feel for its 1959 setting but absolutely nothing in the way of substance. Which does not matter in the slightest. Okay, maybe it goes on a bit at 110 minutes, and it's making a sport out of something I've done professionally for years (data entry) but in the main it's a perfectly likeable, entertaining and pleasantly amusing little film. And what can possibly be wrong with that? Nothing Earth-shattering, but rather sweet and worth tracking down.