I try not to be too much of a hater, but as mainstream cinema continues to scale new heights of shamelessness, it can be fun to point and laugh at some of their efforts ahead of time.
Having outlined the 2013 films I'm most looking forward to seeing earlier this week, I'm going to cite here the five films that inspire the least amount of anticipation in me. I'll most likely end up happily seeing them all and their true value will only be revealed then - these very well may not end up being the worst films of the year. But they are all giving off a notably pongy whiff at this point.
When Bryan Singer's upcoming blockbuster riff on that famous beanstalk story changed its name from Jack The Giant Killer to Jack The Giant Slayer, I got irrationally angry. Not only did the move distance the new film from its clear inspiration, 1962's Jack The Giant Killer, it reeked of a panicked studio attempting to eliminate what little teeth the project may have possessed.
When the dire trailer was released, my anger turned to sorrow. As a filmgoer who is easily wowed by large-scale epicness, I was surprised by just how un-captivating this film appeared to be, even by my admittedly low standards. The design of the giants couldn't be more generic and a sassy Ewan McGregor sausage roll does not a movie make. Lead Nicholas Hoult was great in About a Boy and Skins (and X-Men: First Class maybe), but for no reason in particular, I'm starting to find him quite irritating.
Jack The Giant Slayer's Pong Factor: Old lettuce.
I've spent an inordinate amount of time defending embattled auteur M. Night Shyamalan, but every film he releases makes me less motivated to do so. His early work contains modern classics (The Sixth Sense; Unbreakable), but his latter films (Lady In The Water; The Village; The Happening) have made him something of a laughing stock.
He made a minor comeback with the moderate success of his last film, 2010's The Last Airbender, but his new film After Earth represents his best chance in a while to get back to the high concept/measured execution excellence of his early career. But boy does it look like a stinker.
Maybe it's because the lead character is played by charmless celebrity offspring Jaden Smith. It's certainly not helping that his real-life Pa Will is once again playing his onscreen father (after The Pursuit of Happyness) - it makes the whole thing stink of nepotism. Smith the younger acheived huge success with the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, despite lacking very basic acting skills. Is it churlish to rag on one so young? Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that After Earth looks like a schmaltz-ified mash-up of Avatar; Cast Away and Smith family holidays.
Also not helping After Earth are the surfeit of similarities (in the trailers at least) to the upcoming Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion, which looks way cooler.
After Earth's Pong Factor: Unwashed socks.
As further evidence of my previously stated low standards, I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It strongly resembled the scenarios I envisaged while playing with the toys as a lad, and I liked the mild sense of old fashioned derring-do that much-maligned (but secretly awesome) director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy; Deep Rising) brought to the enterprise.
Sommers has not returned to direct the sequel, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was so great as the mad scientist bad guy in the first film, declined to participate also. I guess his career is in a different place now, but he was set up as a long-term antagonist in the original, and it's a major bummer that he's not in the follow-up.
There were more signs of trouble for the sequel when just before its originally scheduled release in the middle of last year, the studio pulled the film and delayed it until this coming March. Rarely a good sign for any movie, the move was apparently made to allow for the increased presence of Channing Tatum's character Duke, who was originally killed off early in the proceedings.
Tatum's Magic Mike-assisted ascendance to global stardom made the studio think they'd squandered his star power and the delay was designed to allow for further shooting to incorporate him more greatly into the movie. Well, that was the story at least, but this kind of jiggery-pokery usually hints at greater creative problems.
Plus the way the trailer places a huge amount of emphasis on the presence of Bruce Willis - a straight-to-DVD movie stalwart these days - feels totally unearned. So he's the original Joe. So what.
It all points to a giant mess. But I should admit that the cliff-side ninja battle seen in the trailer looks pretty darn awesome. Can I be against the film, but into that part?
GI Joe: Retaliation's Pong Factor: Music festival portaloo.
Safe Haven, The upcoming Nicholas Sparks adaptation appears to be constructed almost entirely out of elements from previous Sparks movies (The Notebook; Dear John; The Lucky One) with a dash of Sleeping With The Enemy thrown in for good measure. All Sparks adaptations take place in picturesque perma-sunset seaside towns filled with charmingly run-down houses and at least one attractive tortured soul. A dramatically convenient storm is never far off.
Julianne Hough, whom I thought was pretty good in the Footloose remake, seems the right shade of orange for this movie. And it's kinda remarkable that anthropomorphised plank-of-wood Josh Duhamel (Transformers) hasn't already been in a Sparks adaptation. The bit with the bicycle looks exciting.
I know I'm not the target audience for this movie, but I'm dreading it nonetheless.
Safe Haven's Pong Factor: Wet dog.
I count myself as one of Evil Dead/Spider-Man director Sam Raimi's biggest fans, but I'm a not getting a good vibe at all about his upcoming Wizard of Oz prequel (of sorts) Oz: The Great and Powerful, in which The Bold and The Beautiful's James Franco stars as a Kansas charlatan who finds himself whisked away to the land of yellow brick roads and lunch-pail trees (I hope). Michelle Williams; Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis play three witches, one of whom will become the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West we know from the 1939 film.
I'm all for visual lushness for its own sake, but everything about the look of Oz feels so incredibly derivative, most directly of Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice In Wonderland. That film made over a billion dollars worldwide so it's perhaps understandable that Disney is playing up the often alarming similarities. But did anyone actually like Alice In Wonderland?
Burton has long since run his specific kind of visual whimsy into the ground, and it's maddening that his dated sensibilities still seem to attract a large audience. Still, I should probably have a little more faith in Raimi. But in a perfect world Oz will flop massively and he'll retreat back to the horror genre and make a sequel to Drag Me To Hell.
Oz: The Great and Powerful's Pong Factor: Rotorua.
For the record, I'm also dreading The Smurfs 2; Scary Movie 5; Grown Ups 2 and The Lone Ranger. This looks pretty hideous too.
Do you think these films will be turkeys? What films are you most dreading this year? Comment below!