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My 14 Worst Movies I Actually Finished

  • Oct 28, 2010
I have finished each of the films listed and do not say that with pride -- or I say it with the same resignation with which I say, I have been through numerous physical exams. I walked away from both but I felt ... yucky. I will not list the movies I walked out on or just stopped midway through the DVD; there is a sliver of chaotic hope that those movies got better.
Lifted was one of the premier movies at the yearly Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham AL.  It was shot entirely in Alabama using almost exclusively local talent.  My wish as an Alabaman is that it never leave the state.

It is, without doubt, the worst movie I have ever seen; I thought I'd be thrown out of the screening.

Mom and dad have a very talented son: at 11 or so, he can write and sing his own songs.  Mom is a recovering meth addict and dad is a mechanic who gets called up for a tour in Afghanistan after already serving a tour in Iraq.

Touching?  Not even remotely.

Every single hackneyed cliche is pulled out for this turkey.  Mom goes back to the meth and moves in with her abusive and racist father who refuses to let her son sing the soulful blues music he is so good at.

Cliche list: mom relapses, kid protected by a minister (Ruben Studdard of American Idol fame who does remarkably little singing), minister tells kid of a talent contest, kid run off alone to the city to compete ... There are many more of these scattered around.

Cliches are enough to make a movie bad, but what makes this the worst I've ever seen are 3 problems so serious the movie could not be fixed with a little editing.  The movie simply cannot be salvaged.

The first is the talent contest.  A full third of the movie is the talent contest.  Instead of being a climax where we hear the kid sing once and win or lose, or a medley of his early round performances and the big song at the end, we get him doing his stuff 3 times and his competitors get almost the same amount of screen time.  I'm all for promoting local talent, but this is a movie not a documentary. 

The second major problem is the music.  As with Billy Elliot, the main driver for the story is an unusually talented child whose circumstances are against them (cliche but done right it is a feel-good flick instead of torture).  Uriah Shelton has a great voice, but is ultimately too young to make the soulful sounds really work.  By itself, that wouldn't be more than just an annoyance, but instead he sings as part of a "freeform" where another performer does freeform rap/hip-hop riffs in the middle of the song.  Both son and father (the freeform partner) are white, but the way they deliver the music is decidedly not.  This wasn't offensive but it was awfully out of place, especially when listening to the freeform crap the father sputtered.  It all comes from a black perspective.  So it just made no sense.

The last is the worst (and is a plot spoiler, so this is the warning). The film is about a soldier called up for a second tour at the worst possible time because his family is stable and happy for the first time in ages because mom is clean, income is steady, son is talented.  Then all goes to hell.  So the kid runs off to the talent contest alone but his father finds him and they are able to do their awful duets.  Prior to the final song we find out, surprise, the dad was killed in Afghanistan and the kid's been hallucinating the whole time.  Yea, that's bad, but it isn't the worst.  One of the movie's aims is to honor troops.  The film forgets this through the endless talent section so is forced to tack it on at the end.  As the now clean again mom and son ride off into the sunset, they do so with the spirit of the father sitting onto of the SUV saluting the spirits of other fallen soldier ghosts doing things like walking along with a stroller, helping mom on a walker, and (no kidding) getting a cat out of a tree.  Every step along the way to this last bit was bad, but the tacked on finale was truly nauseating
99 Pieces
99 Pieces is still the worst movie I've ever seen that you can get easily (on Netflix--not sure if Lifted will ever make it to a movie service near you).

What makes it particularly awful is that, towards the end of this terrible movie, the director actually comes into the scene and castigates us for watching it.  But then starts the movie back up again.  I thought I dreamed that part, but I decided to waste another three minutes of my life verifying the incredible--he really did it.
See the full review, "Bad, very bad, toxic in its suckiness, radioactive in its putridness".
I use the word pornographic to cover more than just naked people. To me porn is anything used in excess or something that has no point other than to appeal to baser animal facets. I use porn to mean gratuitousness that is required by medium: sex for porn movies, explosions and car chases for action movies; gruesome ways of being killed in slasher films. Hostel's violence is really pretty tame by some standards since much of the killing is implied. In other words, it can't even rise to the level to compete with the 80s slasher "classics" like My Bloody Valentine.
See the full review, "Hostel -- one of the worst movies of all time".
Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Drive is one of the biggest "who cares" movies. As a gothic teenager when that term didn't exist (we were all just punks even if that wasn't exactly true), I loved David Lynch and had seen everything that I could get my hands on. His dark comedy was some of the richest I'd ever seen. He stopped being any good after the end of the first season of Twin Peaks. Mulholland Drive is purposely confusing. I think there was a puzzle to solve, but since I finally didn't care about anyone and couldn't follow the scant plot, I gave up trying to solve anything other than why I kept sitting through it. I watched every frame, but came away not remembering much of anything.
The Hurt Locker (2009)
War movies can be incomprehensible but good (Apocalypse Now Redux).  War movies can be "slow" but good (The Thin Red Line is a movie of internal narratives and stunning beauty interrupted by war).  War movies that do not have definite heroes, where all sides are equally bad or good or there is just a complete moral confusion have great potential for being good (I will not wade into the morass of naming names here).  But if your war movie is incomprehensible, and slow (dull) and misuses or misunderstands the moral confusions then it fails all over the place.

The Hurt Locker
has replaced The English Patient as the biggest HUH? of Best Picture Oscars.
See the full review, "Among the dullest filYAWNms evYAWNer".
DVD front
The Matrix, apart from the lobby shoot-out, is nothing but poorly planned and hideously incomplete philosophy "explained" by actors who looked good in tight fitting clothing. Since I chose not to cover sequels, all my ire of this essay is placed in this film. The simple fact that you can drive entire boat shows through the plot holes in it, if you suspended the amount of disbelief required, you'd wind up a drooling moron whose heart might just stop due to the idiocy.
Enemies at the Gate
Enemies at the Gate is what I called Saving Private Ryan though a scope. This movie is all about sitting still and keeping one eye closed while using the other to look through a scope. The only thing more boring than watching snipers do their business of waiting is watching snipers sleep. This is the only movie I can think of where, when the director shouts “Action!,” that the cast actually goes slower than they were when they were getting their makeup touched up.
The Servant (1964)
The Servant is a piece of absurd theater that should never have been filmed. I'm not a big fan of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, and this sort of production is why. I never could quite follow it. I got the sense it was an anti-caste system film whose purpose was to drive a character crazy. The only result was that I was driven crazy. Imagine Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf without the thoughtfulness and talent. Virginia Woolf borders on the terrible, but because the pathos is so deep the movie succeeds. Cut away the meat of that production and you leave fat and gristle that are the ingredients in The Servant.
8mm. I have a three-consecutive-suction rule. This means that I will give any director or actor 3 shots; if the director's 3 consecutive shots are bad or an actor is particularly horrible in 3 films in a row, I put them on the avoid list. I didn't realize that 8mm was directed by Joel Schumacher--Lost Boys, Flatliners and Dying Young are the three that banished him—until I got it home. I watched it anyway. It is so bad that I can't even remember, other than Nicholas Cage's poor acting, what happened. I know that the film was either a fake or a real snuff film, but all I could tell by Mr. Cage's ‘acting' was that his tummy was a little upset by what he saw.
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
AI is the perfect example of the way Spielberg ruins adult situations. I'm no fan of Philip K. Dick (the man responsible for the short story on which the film is based) so I cannot speak to the way the story ends. The interesting thing about the film, and the only reason I broke my no-Spielberg rule because the film was supposed to be a collaboration between Mr. Childish and Stanley Kubrick—a stranger mixture does not come to mind. Kubrick's films are typically pretty harsh and the notion of a happy ending is not in the picture. So what happened is an unholy, unsouled movie. My question while watching it was, what would it have been like had Kubrick lived long enough to kick Spielberg in the butt every time he wanted to add something silly—the whole vicious circus where robots are killed in terrible ways and the escape are pure Spielberg, as is the Close Encounters end. If the movie ended where I believe Kubrick would have—with the robot child begging the mermaid statue for his wish, I would have left the theater in spasms of tears. But Spielberg had to add another fifteen minutes that totally erased any hint of maturity in the story telling.
Batman (1989 film)
Batman wins the award for the worst miscasting. I cannot stand Michael Keaton. After his performance as Batman, I gave him the title Mr. Batmom because of the movie he did prior to this turkey. I was nearly thrown out of the theater for screaming "This is so ^&*^ cheesy." I was never a comic book fan and comic book movies usually suck—some recent ones don't suffer the same fate, however. Anyway, the only line worth anything is when Jack Nicholson says "What this town needs is an enema." Gotham might be constipated, but one thing I can say for sure is that it was the movie that needed an enema.
Xanadu. I've decided, just now, upon remembering this, that I will now use the word as an adjective to describe a hodgepodge movie that simply doesn't make sense. The movie is about singing and roller skating—the movie came at the end of the roller skate craze. I will say that seeing Gene Kelly (an honorable mention for another horrible miscasting) on roller skates is extremely funny.
The Fountain
The Fountain. This is here because the one thing I have most trouble forgiving is disappointment. Darren Aronofsy made Requiem for a Dream which is one of the bleakest films I've ever seen but also among the most engaging. The Fountain lacks all of the heart and soul of Requiem and the mental and obsessive qualities of his first film, Pi. Apparently it is from a graphic novel.  Maybe the disjointed plotlines are easier to follow (or even only possible to follow) in that format.
See the full review, "A dud".
8 1/2 Women
8 ½ Women. Peter Greenaway always skirts the edges of both horrible and nonsense, but in most of his movies (at least for my tastes) he miraculously maintains control. Not so with this film. It is about masturbation and staring in mirrors. There is a woman addicted to pachinko, I think. There is also Toni Collette (who’s ability at accents is rivaled only by Cate Blanchet) doing the worst German accent I’ve ever heard.

What did you think of this list?

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December 30, 2011
Good list man although there are some on here I like.
January 18, 2011
What about Mariah Carey's Glitter? Surely, it deserves a spot? hehe
January 18, 2011
I'm certain it does, but I'm also pretty certain that I won't be able to finish it--If I do ... It is time for me to update the list though, I watched "Beware: Children At Play" and it needs to be placed between "99 Pieces" and "Hostel".
January 18, 2011
Some years ago, a bunch of my friends got together and watched Glitter a la MST3K--we skewered it to pieces with nasty comments while watching it. It was the only way to get through that movie, IMHO. :)
January 18, 2011
I did that with my best friends over the weekend with Twilight: New Moon. The movie is awful but isn't even close to awful enough to make this list. I have to share this tid-bit because it nearly made me blackout from laughing.

Only one of us had read the novel. Another of us asked how it was that the re-humaned werewolves weren't naked ... this is verbatim what she said: "Don't make me say it out loud. They tie their shorts to their pre-wolfie legs."

After I could see again, it occurred to me that none of us have ever said "Don't make me say it out loud" for Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings ... I think Stephanie Meyers is one of the worst hack writers going, but having allowed a friend to utter what is one of the funniest things I've ever heard, I have to forgive Ms. Meyers just the tiniest bit.
January 19, 2011
LOL! Well as my best friend says when we're watching movies and I say "OH PUH-leeze! How can that happen?" "It's in the script, Sheri." :)
November 07, 2010
THE FOUNTAIN was a terrible disappointment to me too. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. Nic Cage makes my skin crawl. You could tell me that he eats babies and I wouldn't have any trouble believing it. As an actor? He wouldn't work at all if he wasn't a Coppola. THE MATRIX always seemed like a big deal about nothing. And gorno (gore/porno)flix like HOSTEL, no matter how well made they may be, can not fall out of popularity fast enough for me.
January 18, 2011
Ditto on the torture porn going bye-bye as soon as possible.
November 06, 2010
I enjoyed this list!! I agree with you totally on Hostile - I thought it was in completely bad taste and hated it. The Matrix was one I did not like much either. I have not seen 8 1/2 Women, and don't want to after reading your review of it. I liked 8MM although I would not watch it again - I think it was the darkness of the film that drew me to it, but I agree this was not Cage's best performance and it was a rather creepy movie. Xanadu was ridiculous (I don't think I ever even finished watching it) and Batman sucked too. Great list and a wonderful idea to put your worst movies in a list!!
November 01, 2010
You missed out on the "The Room"!
October 29, 2010
excellent list, well-written and thanks for sharing.  though I did like The Hurt Locker and The Matrix. ! I liked the idea behind this list, it is nice to see a different viewpoint after all. I still haven't seen # 12 and I may see # 1 soon :)
October 29, 2010
Ok, Yea, Xanadu really should be seen (there is an animated bit that defies description because wretched is just not strong enough). So Xanadu really is one of those "eeew, this is awful, here taste this" sort of thing. Lifted ... no man, no I'm not kidding in the least here. If you want to try my seriousness, try 99 Pieces, if you can sit through it, then by all means suffer Lifted ...
November 07, 2010
Poor Gene Kelly.
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Paul Savage ()
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I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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