Movies are like gifts: on the outside, you think you have a good idea of what you're anticipating. So you go along with the experience, knowing full well that in the end, good or bad, you asked for the end result. This is the process that led us to love such films as Iron Man or The Cabin In The Woods, films that were unknown quantities when they started, but became big time hits once they were revealed to the world.
Of course, this scenario works the other way too, and that's when you find the movies that were supposed to be the next big hit, but decided to add an extra letter to their title. It's those movies that we have come to dishonor today, so be sure to keep your receipts handy, as you'll probably want your money back for the next 10 films that -- in my humble opinion -- let audiences down in 2014. Let me explain why:
10. 300: Rise Of An Empire300 was a hell of a surprise when it made its debut in 2006. It was only Zack Snyder's second film, but with it, he cemented his visual language, and started to make a name for himself as a master adapter of comic properties. If only Noam Murro had as much luck with his sophomore outing, as 300: Rise Of An Empire took its sweet time to tell a story that's not even half as compelling as the original 300 was. Still, it could have been a lot worse, and the moments when the film believes in itself lead to some over the top thrills and debauchery that no other R-rated film will match. Finding the wait for 50 Shades Of Grey to be a strain on your patience? Try watching the big sex scene on the boat.
9. The Expendables 3A recurring theme in this year's naughty list is one of the most natural examples of filmmaking disappointment: the disappointing sequel. After two entries of retro '80s ass-kicking, Sylvester Stallone decided it was a good time to hand the torch off to the kids! At least, that was the reason he gave for making the traditionally R-rated Expendables franchise into a PG-13 waste of time on its third lap. Of course, the harsh truth is that when you reduce an R-rated franchise to a PG-13 husk of itself, it tends to remove the stakes that are normally present with a film where you actually feel like people are dying, instead of just playing a big budget version of Army. Still, if there's any silver lining in this, it's that Stallone might be bringing back The Expendables for one last, proper outing.
8. Big Hero 6Before you say anything, yes Big Hero 6 wasn't that bad of a movie. It was fun, it had some cute moments that rounded out the entire experience, and it wasn't a complete side show. However, what landed this film on the list is the fact that despite its likable nature, it failed to surpass most of the magic Disney and Marvel have been carving out since 2008. Hell, it has an even harder act to follow, considering that The Iron Giant blazed a similar path so many years ago, and it did it with much more emotion. Big Hero 6 was fun, but it could have been so much more.
7.The Monuments MenBringing it back to George Clooney, the man is most definitely a talented individual on either side of the camera. You don't wind up with films like Good Night, And Good Luck by accident. But on the other side of the coin, you don't wind up with films that miss the mark like The Monuments Men without making some consciously bad choices. Ending up like a cruel mirror-universe version of The Expendables, Clooney's latest directorial effort took itself a little to seriously for audiences who were expecting some decent combat and a little bit of that old-fashioned World War II patriotism. Instead, they got an art lesson, and a lecture on how art drives the world. Not even Bill Murray could save this film from its sense of importance, and the gods know he tried.
6. Sex TapeRemember that movie that sold itself prominently on the fact that Cameron Diaz was going to get naked? OK, bad example, but do you remember that movie that tried to sell the idea of a sex tape going viral via the cloud as a kooky little entertainment that couldn't miss? That's exactly what Sony was banking on, as Diaz and the sometimes likable Jason Segal took on high-tech hijinks with the director of Bad Teacher. It really is an idea that should have worked... if you ignored the existence of films like The Virginity Hit, where similar ideas are put to the test, and fail miserably without a story to hang their hat on. The moral of the story: sex tapes really aren't that funny, unless they star Dustin Diamond.
5. Into The WoodsWhat happens when you take a beloved musical, give it to Disney as a Best Picture lock, and hire a director that should know his way around a perfect adaptation of a beloved musical? In some worlds, you'd get the second coming of Chicago, and indeed that's what Rob Marshall's presence in the crew listing for Into The Woods seemed to promise. Not to mention, the film hired a cast of luminaries like James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick to play some major league ball with the legendary Meryl Streep and Disney's indentured servant, Johnny Depp. To be fair, it could have worked... the operative words being, "could have." Unfortunately, Disney sanitized the film's more ribald content into something that only Disney could perform, thus ruining the point of the entire show. If you like those Junior editions of big name plays that Middle Schools put on to play it safe, then this is the film for you.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2Upon first viewing, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is actually a pretty damned fun film. It runs on a different brand of steam than the unforgivably redundant The Amazing Spider-Man, and it actually manages to land some A-list talent in Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan. However, once you've been dragged to see it again with friends that didn't see it the first week, the facade starts to crack – and fast. The film telegraphs a main character's death to such a painful degree that all of the false hope it gives for its character's actual survival is scraped, and it has some of the most horribly one note baddies ever written. Take it away, Marvel Studios!
3. TranscendenceDirectorial debuts are a very, very tricky thing to stick the landing on. Wally Pfister, go-to director of photography for Christopher Nolan, decided to try his hand at filmmaking with Transcendence. A film with a cast and concept that sound a lot like a Christopher Nolan film, Transcendence failed to live up to its name as it muddled its novel premise with horrible pacing and a very misleading ad campaign that utterly baffled audiences when they sat down to watch a totally different film than they had expected. Also, can we call a moratorium on "Evil Kate Mara?" It's starting to wear thin.
2. A Million Ways To Die In The WestThis could have been something big. With Ted breaking records and riding high in the eyes of the public, Seth MacFarlane looked to be bringing his particular brand of comedy back to the big screen. Yet a Western flare evoking memories of Blazing Saddles, a cameo by Back To The Future's Doc Brown, and even Neil Patrick Harris – who practically makes everything better – couldn't save A Million Ways To Die In The West from the one death that was most important of all: the death of Comedy. Maybe Ted 2 will be kinder, but if that's what it takes for MacFarlane to have a hit at the box office, maybe it's best that he steps away from the camera and steps back into the recording booth.
1. The InterviewThe biggest disappointment of the year is a film that most of us haven't seen, and even more of us will probably be watching on demand on Christmas morning. Yet if Sony didn't cave on releasing The Interview in its original wide release platform, we'd all be able to see it at the same time. However, we're now stuck with an extremely limited theatrical release platform, with video on demand filling in the massive gap in theatrical offerings. The Interview is supposed to be a communal experience, and running in independent theaters doesn't do anyone favors. The fact that Sony caved (before eventually backpeddaling) is our biggest disappointment this year. Here's hoping that The Interview expands into a wider release in the weeks to come, because as with any film worth watching, it should be seen in a proper theater.