THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"THE TEN WORST FILMS OF 2008"

Do you smell that horrific stench? It's the odor reeking from the movies on this list. That's right - it's time to look back at the worst films of 2008…and, man, are they foul!

It's weird; people often tell me that they look forward to my annual worst list. I would much, much rather write about the great films than revisit these turkeys, but for some reason a lot of folks enjoy hearing about the ones that sucked. Maybe it's some kind of catharsis, because surely we have all been burned on a bad motion picture. Hearing those responsible get taken to task must be inwardly pleasing.

As with most years, 2008 provided more than 10 terrible movies, which means that this list has no room for crap like Righteous Kill, which wasted the talents of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Nor do we have time to discuss the disappointing awfulness of the most recent Bond flick Quantum of Solace. I took a lot of heat on the Rotten Tomatoes message boards for my trashing of that one. (Memo to the guy who said I should stop reviewing movies: Make me, punk!) Nor can we further analyze junk like Prom Night, Jumper, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Bangkok Dangerous, Max Payne, Pathology, Fool's Gold, or 10,000 B.C.. That's right - there were ten other movies even worse than 10,000 B.C.

Before I unveil the formal list, a new feature:

The Uwe Boll Hall of Shame Award for Unspeakable Sucking - This year's recipient is, naturally, Uwe Boll. The much maligned "filmmaker" (Google his name if you don't know what I mean) released no fewer than three pictures in 2008: Seed, Postal, and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. They all deserve to be on this list, but I was reluctant to let one director clog up so many spots. I briefly considered choosing "Any Film Directed by Uwe Boll" as my worst film, then thought otherwise. Boll has become a staple on this list. At this stage of the game, nobody even expects his movies to be good in the first place. It's time to cast him aside from the rest of the junk and acknowledge his unique place in the annals of sucking. Other films suck, too, and they need to be called out. For the record, though, Boll's Postal is as repulsive and morally reprehensible as any movie I've ever seen. Attempting to find humor in the sight of school children getting machine-gunned, mocking the 9/11 attacks, and parodying the victims of United Flight 93, Boll obliterated all sense of good taste. Postal is the real worst movie of the year - and possibly the worst movie ever. But like I said, it's time to put Boll in his own private circle of Hell and let his worthless moviemaking ass rot there.

Oh, by the way, I don't mince words on this list.

Here, now, are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2008:

10. One Missed Call - Yet another botched attempt to translate the "J-horror" genre to the American filmmaking sensibility. This remake of a popular Japanese thriller had no style, no substance, and an ending that explained none of what had come before. Edward Burns, a talented indie filmmaker, obviously cashed a paycheck by appearing in this dud; presumably he used the cash to fund one of his own projects, so maybe there is a small silver lining in this very dark cloud.

9. Babylon A.D. - Vin Diesel again scowls at the camera and growls his dialogue, as though acting badass is enough to carry a movie. Guess what? It's not. For most of its running time, this futuristic thriller was merely stupid, but the last 20 minutes assured Babylon A.D. a spot on this list. The story's finale completely ignores a number of essential plot points, and so you walk away wondering what in the hell you just saw. Incidentally, director Mathieu Kassovitz publicly trashed his own picture, calling it "relentlessly violent and stupid." Who am I to disagree?

8. 88 Minutes - Between this and Righteous Kill, Al Pacino needs a new agent. Once again indulging in his recent tendency to overact, Pacino played a forensic psychologist who receives a mysterious phone call telling him that he has only 88 minutes to live. Aside from a credibility-stretching plot and a howler of an ending, the film suffers because it doesn't play by its own rules. It runs a full 107 minutes, and all the investigating Pacino's character does here would take at least a full day to accomplish. Note to casting directors: the actor chosen to play the villain should never be hired to play a bad guy again. He/she is simply not capable of doing it believably.

7. The Love Guru - This lame comedy answers the question: What would happen if Mike Myers just spontaneously stopped being funny? Like Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, Myers has lost his mojo. I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost every single joke in this picture has a punchline that revolves around male genitalia. I like crude humor as much as the next guy, but this stuff wasn't funny and ultimately became as tiresome as it was repetitive.

6. Vantage Point - I know people who really like this thriller, but I don't get it. The President of the United States is assassinated in Spain, and we see the event replayed seven times, each from the perspective of a different character. In concept, it's a cool idea…until you are sitting in your theater seat watching the exact same thing seven times over. Every time the scenario restarted, I literally groaned. Desperate for a "surprise" plot twist it hasn't earned, the screenplay abruptly assigns one of its characters to be the villain, without ever bothering to explain how/why. Sorry, but a frantic last-minute car chase isn't enough to compensate for some lazy writing.

5. Over Her Dead Body - Star Paul Rudd (who usually appears in better stuff) recently apologized for this insipid romantic comedy in an interview with JoBlo.com. Apparently, someone involved knew they were on a sinking ship. Eva Longoria Parker plays a shrew who is killed on her wedding day. Her ghost returns to haunt her fiancé's new love interest. Aside from the fact that this plot has been done numerous times before, Over Her Dead Body embarrassingly tries - and fails - to adopt the tone of an old screwball comedy. Would I ever watch this piece of garbage again? Over my dead body.

4. Strange Wilderness - I remember seeing this comedy (which wasn't screened for critics) on opening day. There was one other person in the theater. About an hour in, he took a lengthy cell phone call. Normally, I get annoyed when someone talks on the phone during a movie, but in this case, I actually wanted him to start speaking a little louder. Produced by Adam Sandler's production company, Strange Wilderness is little more than another attempt to get work for his less talented friends, Allen Covert and Peter Dante. Perhaps the senseless spoofing of nature shows is funny if you're stoned, but since I don't do drugs, I just found it insufferable.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - I wasn't the biggest fan of the first Narnia installment, but it had its charms. This sequel scraps anything that was even remotely enjoyable about the original. The child actors are given nothing to do. Instead of playing individual characters, they are all turned into generic warriors. The plot alternates between long stretches of dull talkiness and ineptly-staged action scenes; any sense of wonder contained in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is gone. You can tell the filmmakers thought they were subscribing to the Harry Potter-esque get-darker-as-you-go-along school of thought, yet the returns are diminishing. Honestly, I'd be hard pressed to remember a time when I was more bored by a movie. Apparently I'm not alone. The sequel took such a financial drop from the original that Walt Disney studios bailed out of making any future installments.

2. An American Carol - My contempt for this parody of left-wing ideology has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that it's just not funny. At all. Essentially 90 minutes of a Michael Moore look-alike getting slapped around, the flick tries to pander to an audience that's desperate to see liberals get made fun of. For the record, I took my favorite conservative Republican with me to see An American Carol and, after some initial resistance, even he admitted that the jokes largely fell flat. One funny thing did come out of this film: some right-wing bloggers attempted to defend it, even going so far as to claim that theaters were attributing ticket sales to other movies as part of a vast liberal conspiracy. (For the record, I saw it opening weekend in an empty theater.) Another blogger named Oleg Atbashian took me - and a number of other critics - to task on the American Thinker website. He was appalled - appalled! - that we trashed An American Carol while praising the works of Michael Moore. I'm all for people liking whatever they like, but that said, I do think it's quite possible to make a compelling argument that, politics aside, Moore's films are better made.

And my choice for the Worst Non-Uwe Boll Directed Movie of 2008 is:


Paris Hilton and Christine Lakin star in The Hottie and the Nottie, the worst film of 2008.
 
1. The Hottie and the Nottie - Paris Hilton inexplicably plays the hottie. Seriously, is there a less desirable woman in all of showbiz? Nevertheless, she plays a supposed sex object who won't commit to a man until she finds someone to love her hideously deformed best friend. Joel David Moore plays the guy who wants to win Hilton's love but - big surprise - ends up falling for the ugly girl instead. I think we all know Paris Hilton couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. To her credit, she's not even the worst actor on screen. Moore stammers and fumbles maniacally in an attempt to be funny/charming. The result is so obnoxious that you just want to punch him in the face. The Hottie and the Nottie aims to be a parable about inner beauty, yet it repeatedly finds time for lingering close-ups of Hilton's body. The "humor" here is also so broad and so unsubtle that there's no way anyone could ever find anything to identify with. These characters might as well be from Mars; that's how inhuman they behave. Shallow, offensive, and damn unfunny, The Hottie and the Nottie is a complete waste of time, with no redeeming value whatsoever. It makes you throw up in your own mouth a little bit.

So there you go - ten terrible movies that belong on the cinematic scrap heap, to be guarded by the junkyard dog that is Uwe Boll. Some of the players involved will rebound with better pictures in 2009. Others will suck again. To conclude, my annual caveat: none of these pictures fall into the "so bad, they're good" category. I would tell you if they did. These are the ones to avoid like the plague because they have no entertainment value - intentional or unintentional - to offer.

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