I’ve got a cool job, but there are many, many times when the film critic’s life becomes a struggle for survival against a soulless dream factory intent on crushing your mind and spirit. Mediocre, disposable movies are a weekly hazard, but truly bad movies leave a stain on everything they touch. And — oh, good gravy — there was no shortage of dreck hitting the multiplexes in 2013. Here is a brief summary of a few of the worst cinematic horrors that I endured this year so that hopefully you, dear reader, didn’t have to.
10: Safe Haven.
Another soggy southern romance from the undisputed master of lovesick hokum, Nicholas Sparks. Featuring lead characters with all the zest of tapioca on white toast, and an “aw, shucks” huckleberry town so vapid that you root for the third-act plot-twist hurricane.
9: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Hey, gang, let’s take a one line, parody title gag and stretch it out to 88 minutes of eardrum-shattering, eye-straining, brain-melting tedium. Sounds like a plan.
8: Jack the Giant Slayer
The first English-language blockbuster made exclusively for non-native speakers, this exportable action trash takes yet another beloved fairy tale and proceeds to piss straight up its beanstalk with a muddle of unintelligible plotting, a bland hero and loads and loads of ugly, brown and green tinted 3-D effects work.
7: The Purge
A moderately interesting Twilight Zone-like concept about a state-sponsored murder holiday, quickly degenerates into Z-grade slasher junk, featuring an embarrassed Ethan Hawke stumbling in dark hallways and a cast of twits so dumb they deserve to get carved into cold cuts.
A floundering Naomi Watts and a confused Robin Wright act out an Andy Samberg parody rap premise about hitting the sheets with each other’s hunky sons, all the while sipping wine while lounging around on deck chairs lovingly showing off their still lush curves like a commercial for Cougarlife.com.
A straight-to-DVD rush job gets exploited as the most pointless toy ad to come out of the Magic Kingdom in many a moon. Did the mediocre and upsetting Cars universe really need a spin-off? And did it need to feature Dane Cook as a plucky crop duster with ambitions?
4: After Earth
Apparently, once you reach the upper echelons of Scientology, you are required to make a bloated, mega-budgeted, unwatchable sci-fi vanity project. That’s just scripture. Having obviously never seen Battlefield Earth, Will Smith launched his own galactic calamity, directed by human bomb M. Night Shyamalan, and featuring Jaden Smith, the most useless showbiz offspring since Frank Sinatra Jr.
3: Grown Ups 2
Adam Sandler takes another studio-sponsored working vacation with his pals, and is too lazy to even pretend to be ashamed. A joyless, laugh-free “comedy” that starts with a deer urinating on the star’s head, and then somehow manages to get worse from there.
2: Bullet to the Head
Swiftly aging Sylvester Stallone is still working at a reckless pace, and he’s desperate to prove his remaining prowess. And when it comes to making idiotic, macho action slop, he’s still the king of shit mountain.
1: Only God Forgives
A turgid, misanthropic slog through the brutal Bangkok underworld, filmed by hipster twerp Nicolas Winding Refn with a maximum of pretension and an overload of slo-mo shots that drag out the already sluggish plotting into absurd boredom. Extreme violence and dismemberment punctuated by Ryan Gosling displaying all the emotional range of a sycamore tree in February. God may forgive; I don’t.