Welcome to the second annual Bitch Awards, celebrating the best and worst films and TV shows of the year. Stick around for the next two weeks as we raise a glass to our favourite works from 2012 (and duck as we unceremoniously throw the remote at our least favourites).
We’ve reached #4 on our list of best of the best and worst of the worse films of 2012…
#4: The Vow (Sucsy, 2012)
Normally Rachel McAdams can do no wrong. The Notebook and The Time Traveler’s Wife are two of my favorite tear-jerking, guilty pleasures. But The Vow simply can’t stand up to my other McAdams favourites. The premise is perfect for a film of this genre: Paige (McAdams) loses all memories of her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) in a car accident and he spends the rest of the movie fighting to help her remember what they shared. You would expect the film to be dripping in sticky sweet romantic goodness, but unfortunately, most of the time it’s just awkward as Paige shoots down Leo’s advances. Not only do we see their initial courtship via flashbacks, but we’re subjected to them again as Leo tries to help Paige remember. It’s excruciatingly redundant considering I failed to feel anything for them the first time around.
I fault the lack of chemistry between McAdams and Tatum for my disinterest, where Tatum’s clunky and robotic line delivery makes it impossible to root for him. Most of the time he just comes off as desperate. McAdams does well in her role as the perfectly angelic heroine. You can tell she’s desperately trying to squeeze some kind of genuine emotion from the one-dimensional Tatum, but unfortunately she fails miserably. Paige’s struggles with losing her identity, independent of her marriage, provide the film’s strongest moments. Unfortunately, it’s the love story that’s driving the film and since that’s an epic fail, there’s little to no investment in anything else. Give The Notebook another viewing and save yourself from this one.
#4:This Means War (McG, 2012)
I will make a confession right off the bat: romantic comedies are not my favourite genre. I often struggle to find something original about the narrative structure and frequently find the women to be caricatures of real women (I know very few women who are as man-crazy – or stupid – as the women populating rom-coms). So my interest was piqued when I saw the trailers for the Reese Witherspoon vehicle This Means War (which is basically a live-action version of Mad Magazine’s Spy Vs Spy + a woman). Bonus points for some high octane action, as well as rising stars/hotties Chris Pine and Tom Hardy and the film had potential.
The inclusion of McG (director of the Charlie’s Angels films) should have been a tip-off because This Means War is a terrible film. There are two principle problems: the film doesn’t know what it wants to be and when it finally decides, it makes the wrong decision.
On the first point, the plotting of the film is problematic because it doesn’t know if it wants to be an action film or a romantic comedy. Heck, it doesn’t even know which of the two main character relationships it wants us to focus on: do we invest in the bro-mantic relationship between douchey ladies man FDR (Pine) and nice guy relationship oriented Tuck (Hardy)? Or are we supposed to cheer for their respective romantic relationship(s) with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon)? Who knows? Not the film, unfortunately. And that’s before you throw in the usual tired rom-com tropes (Lauren is ridiculously hot, but she has laughably awful trouble with men, she – naturally – has a kooky, sex-obsessed best friend in Chelsea Handler and naturally the men sabotage each other’s incredibly expensive looking dates in extremely convoluted ways). And then there are the narrative implausibilities such as what the men can do on a spy’s budget, and how no one notices the tech missing or the overtime billing to surveil Lauren (which is treated as normal, but is actually really creepy). It’s all eye-rollingly annoying.
This could potentially be forgiven if SPOILERS the end of the film wasn’t such a clusterf*ck. After a convoluted chase scene that’s meant to pay off the action AND the romance (it doesn’t), Lauren ultimately chooses…FDR? The total cad gets the girl over the nice guy who is clearly relationship material? It’s as though the film is scripted by a fourteen year old who thinks that girls like bad boys (in case you were wondering, yes, FDR drives a motorcycle and has a pool skylight that allows him to watch half-naked women swim). And just in case the fact that this supposedly smart, ridiculously hot woman with everything going for her chooses the complete ass, there’s a final coda that confirms that FDR slept with Tuck’s ex-wife before they got married. WTF?! END SPOILERS So basically the end of the film is one sour note after another, turning what was simply a confused film into a flat-out awful failure of a rom-com that’s my fourth worst film of the year.
#4: Looper (Johnson, 2012)
I can honestly say I didn’t expect to like Looper when I first went in, especially when I saw the makeup job on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I thought the film was just an excuse to show how great he is at impersonating Bruce Willis. Although this does happen to be true, the film is so much more than that. I was delightfully surprised at the utterly compelling story it presented: I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
The premise: Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hit man of sorts tasked to put a bullet in the poor souls sent from crime bosses in the future via outlawed time travel. Things get complicated when Joe’s hit turns out to be his older self from the future – the aptly named ‘Old Joe’ (played by Willis). I don’t want say much more than that as the pleasure of this film is just sitting back and enjoying where the narrative takes you. Gordon-Levitt is the real star of this piece, and we should be in awe of his ability to mimic Willis, not because it’s as gimmicky as the trailers and promotional material make it out to be, but because it’s all in service of the story. The scene when both Joes talk to one another in a café is just brilliant – it’s eerie in all the right ways.
The cinematography throughout the film is also noteworthy- I was completely caught off guard at how absolutely beautiful some of the shots are. From the sequences comprising the montage from Young Joe to Old, to the shots depicting the quiet solitude of the farm and cornfields, this film seems to defy its science-fiction trappings, choosing instead to emulate an art film. Looper truly has everything: from suspenseful action sequences to tender emotional moments. Ultimately, it’s just damn good storytelling.
#4: Chronicle (Trank, 2012)
I went back and forth several times between Chronicle and Cabin In The Woods for fourth spot. On one hand, Cabin In The Ways is a truly original film: a revisionist trick or treat that rewards fans of the horror genre with a delirious third act that brings new meaning to the term “gong show.”
Ultimately Chronicle won out because it is so unexpected. I’d heard a great deal about the teen superhero found-footage film, but based on that description, I figured that it would play things relatively safe. Instead the film uses all of the traditional qualifiers to enhance the film experience, from the way in which the film eliminates the “why would they keep filming this” question that plagues most found-footage films (*cough Cloverfield cough*) to the generic tropes of the superhero film (let’s face it: if you were a high school student who got super powers, you wouldn’t become Spiderman; you would find a way to make yourself popular).
What genuinely works about the film, however, is that you care about these guys. After three guys – two friends and the loner cousin of one – are exposed to…something…they develop telekinetic powers that they use to play pranks and amaze the jaded population of the school they attend. Things progressively deteriorate as Andrew (break-out star Dane DeHaan), the loner, becomes increasingly dissociated from reality as his craptacular life butts head with his new abilities, which frightens and ultimately drives his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) to action. While the third act is a little too obvious and over-the-top, the found footage format adds a compelling new visual take on a familiar narrative format. Ultimately Chronicle earns its spot on my ‘Best Of’ list because it is such an unexpected surprise: a film built on familiar generic tropes that genuinely entertains while pushing the narrative boundaries of what a found-footage can do.
So readers, what do you think of our #4 picks? Care to agree/disagree? Hit up the comments and let us know and be sure to visit us tomorrow as we continue the countdown!