It may be hard to believe, but as a film critic, it takes a lot to displease me. If I choose to see a movie, I usually give it the benefit of the doubt, so it takes a real stinker to make it to the bottom of my list.
A caveat before I start the countdown: I have the luxury of choosing to stay away from movies I have a strong hunch will bomb, so you won't find ones like Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Expendables 3 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on my list because, well, those are a given.
Here, then, are the 10 worst movies I had the misfortune of seeing in 2014.
10. Fading Gigolo
Woody Allen's directorial output of 2014, Magic in the Moonlight, was an enjoyable trifle, but he had a big misstep when he co-starred in this film directed by and starring John Turturro. Turturro tried to pay tribute to his idol's filmmaking style but wound up with a confusing plot that spoke more to personal wish fulfillment than quality storytelling.
Director Peter Jackson is justifiably lauded for the work he did with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but his curious choice to split The Hobbit into three films came to a head with The Battle of the Five Armies, which had almost no life or emotion to it. The final battle would have been a stunner if it hadn't already been done better in the LOTR trilogy.
With the glut of zombie-related films and TV shows out there right now, creators have to figure out a way to set theirs apart. The idea of continuing a relationship with someone you know is a zombie is a clever conceit, but the execution here was poor. What's supposed to be funny never was, and writer/director Jeff Baena's attempts at broadening the story also fell flat.
Seth MacFarlane knows what he's doing when he's the voice of characters on Family Guy or in Ted, but he whiffed with this live-action film. A film that promised lewd and crude material, not to mention innumerable deaths, played it way too safe in both regards, and the result was a mostly unfunny movie that couldn't capitalize on its own strengths.
Melissa McCarthy had been on a meteoric rise since 2011's Bridesmaids, but she stumbled with Tammy, a film she co-wrote with her husband, Ben Falcone. A rambling, miserable, disjointed mess, it suffered the extra indignity of McCarthy's giving critics of her weight extra ammunition by piling on the fat jokes. McCarthy knows how to sell a joke with her acting, but she needed to leave the writing to someone else.
As most superhero movies are wont to do these days, the second film of the second Spider-Man trilogy tried to up the ante with an ever-increasing number of villains. And just like most superhero movies, the addition of more characters led to an unfocused and unexciting movie. Can we finally be done trying to make Spider-Man work on screen?
4. Bad Words
Just as Melissa McCarthy couldn't make the most of her own material in Tammy, Jason Bateman didn't succeed in his directorial debut. He did make himself extremely unlikable, but rather than being hilarious, it's mostly uncomfortable watching him try to corrupt a 10-year-old spelling bee contestant. Bateman definitely used a lot of bad words, but he failed to find many funny ones.
Sure, it's predictable that an Adam Sandler movie makes the worst-of-2014 list, but because the last two times he teamed up with Drew Barrymore, in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, were among his best, there was reason to hope here. Alas, they couldn't conjure the same magic, with Sandler's patented brand of inanity yielding one eye-rolling moment after another.
Plenty of fans believed that Zach Braff had it in him to make another Garden State, his self-assured 2004 directorial debut. But Wish I Was Here was nowhere near the same quality. Instead we're "treated" to relationships that had little-to-no emotion behind them, random sci-fi scenes and a hopscotch approach to editing. Those who funded Braff's Kickstarter campaign should be asking for their money back.
1. Are You Here
A film directed by Mad Men's Matthew Weiner and starring the usually reliable Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler seems like a sure thing, but this one failed to ever get off the ground. The plot of the film never quite connected, making it seem like every fourth page of the script was missing. In the end, whether the main characters succeeded or not didn't matter, because their whole journey was pointless.
Dallas-based Alex Bentley reviews movies for CultureMap sites in Dallas, Houston and Austin.