There are a million reasons why a film might end up being a steaming pile of shite rather than a box-office blitzing Oscar winner.
Sometimes it's down to budgetary restraints, a dodgy producer or the dreaded 'one for them, one for me' route through studio filmmaking. Sometimes, of course, it's just a talented movie-maker forgetting himself as he disappears up his own bunghole only to return brandishing a fluorescent turd.
It can happen to the best of 'em...
Steven Soderbergh - Ocean's 12 (2004)
Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 nailed the modern action movie, Sex Lies And Videotape was so good it basically created the modern independent movie and Traffic was medium-budget drama done with a shed-load of panache and duly won every award under the sun. Then he made Ocean's 12. Take everything that made the first film brilliant - wit, invention, a plot that made the vaguest shred of sense - and not so much tear it up as take it to Amsterdam and shove it up inside its own arse before squeezing it inside an inexplicable Arsenal-related plot. Even Vincent Cassel couldn't save it. A hideous mess.
Quentin Tarantino - Death Proof (2007)
A man who's always been in love with the sound of his own pen, lantern-headed nerd Lord Quentin Tarantino went full-Quentin in a film that desperately needed a strong producer to step in from time-to-time to say "Quentin, mate, maybe put the coke down and stop writing ten-minute monologues". Kurt Russell stands alone amongst the smouldering rubble of a promising premise as the one-time enfant terrible of American cinema proceeded to create two films in one: each more boring and more in love with itself than the last. Desperate to create a film satirising the kind of guilty pleasure pictures people actually enjoyed seeing a generation ago, the director only served to make a film which made it feel self-flagellating for Tarantino completists.
Steven Spielberg - Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull (2008)
It was the perfect storm of shit for Spielberg and IJATCS, as I've taken to calling this fetid mess of a movie - hoping that the novelty of extreme initialism will take away some of its power. Not only did it feature professional plagiariser and all-round putrid bellend Shia LeBouf but it also had fucking aliens in it. Maybe it's fool-hardy to expect some semblance of realism from a film series which once featured a Nazi getting face-melted by a holy chest of drawers but that just speaks for the deus ex machina nature of the ending - Jones shrugs and backs away as he says, "Oh yeah, by the way, they're fucking aliens who will vaporise you by telling you more information than you can handle." A legacy-ruining way to end a beloved series by a filmmaker so past his sell-by date that he probably only still wears that cap to cover-up the mould. We're onto you, Steve.
Paul Thomas Anderson - Magnolia (1999)
For most intents and purposes, we can all agree that Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation. Let's just categorise Magnolia as a sometimes-entertaining misstep from an auteur seeing how far he can push it. Over-long and pretentious, Magnolia featured possibly the worst pre-title sequence in the world (a stupid set of short tales explaining to us what a coincidence is like we're children) followed by one of my favourite opening credits ever. That set the tone for the movie. Standout turns meet excesses everywhere: the strands of the plot try desperately to intertwine but never quite get there and end up sitting there, dumbfounded, in the rain singing along to Aimee Mann. A career-high role for a brilliant Tom Cruise is cancelled out by Julianne Moore screaming and overacting in the kind of manic, wheel-spinning performance which makes you worry for the actors' health rather than the characters.
Clint Eastwood - Hereafter (2010)
Oh god, where to begin? Matt Damon in a career low, set-pieces which milked real-life natural disasters for everything they're worth, young twin English actors who were without a doubt THE WORST ACTORS OF ALL TIME and a plot made about as much sense as that time Clint spent the night on stage talking to a chair. Maybe it's time to hang up the canvas-backed seat, mate?
Oliver Stone - Alexander (2004)
An unmitigated disaster. Colin Farrell sports a dodgy bottle-job barnet in a movie which features so much aimless talking that even Aaron Sorkin would've blushed (not Tarantino, though - he would've preferred MORE TALKING). Clumsy exposition meets crappy battle-sequences as the man who once brought us Charlie Sheen losing his shit in Vietnam allows a wooden Farrell to traipse about the desert exerting as much gravitas as a quinoa salad.
Ridley Scott - Robin Hood (2010)
I loved Gladiator when I first saw it. It's not the best movie in the world (many of the moments that don't immediately spring to mind do so for good reason) but it was tremendous fun and entrenched itself in popular culture. Had I known that both Ridley and Russell would be dining out on the movie for the next ten years I would've thought twice about my enjoyment. A joy-less, po-faced take on one of the most fun anti-heroes in fiction, it tortures with a two-and-a-half hour run-time which feels much longer as we're bludgeoned with consequence, tedious battle-sequence and Russell Crowe's empty scowls. The Disney one with all the foxes and the whistling was infinitely superior.
Christopher Nolan - Inception (2010)
If you're going to argue with this one I'd urge you to go back and watch the film again. Leo DiCaprio gives precisely no fucks in a role so humourless he could've been replaced by a stuffed dummy with his face taped to it and no one would notice; the kind of actor that everyone just assumes is brilliant despite the fact he's quite clearly just going through the motions. Admittedly Scorsese's Wolf Of Wall Street looks to be a return to form but ever since Marty first cast young Leo in Gangs Of New York, the actor's been treading water. Leo aside the film has flaws a-plenty: from a plot which spends so much time patting itself on the back that it forgets that its primary function is to be entertaining to a filmmaker so desperate to intellectualise everything that he just comes off like a stoned philosophy student sitting on a dorm floor. Watching it a third time to prepare for writing this, I felt like the only way I'd stay awake was if someone tipped me into a freezing bathtub in Tangiers too.