Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Worst Movies of 2015

I stopped doing Worst Films of the Year lists a few years back.

I stopped doing them for a couple of reasons. One, often times when other people do these kind of lists, they end up packed with the type of no budget, no talent films that never had any other option but to be terrible, and pointing out their failure to do something there was never any chance at all of them accomplishing in the first place just seems like picking on the slow kid, and that bothers me. Also, most people have usually never even heard of a lot of these terrible no budget films, because they're terrible and they have no budget, so putting them on a Worst of the Year list becomes this weird film snob badge of honor, and that's gross too. Y'see, to me, a Worst Films of the Year list should be comprised solely of the films that had every available resource at hand, films that had every chance to be great, films that had money, talent, time, everything, and yet... and yet, they still somehow managed to turn out something terrible. Isn't that the true measure of failure? Isn't that the true disappointment? The second reason that I had stopped doing these lists is a bit simpler: Ever since Filmzilla closed (sad face), my free access to the sum totality of Moviedom was cut-off, and as such my willingness to spend time with (and pay for) some of these obviously bad films has dropped off considerably. So that means, when it came time to make a list of well funded and talent-packed Hollywood turds... I had nothing.

Enter 2015...

As happenstance would have it, this year I was given some Itunes gift cards, so... free movies! And while 2015 was a great year for film, a really great year actually, it was also packed with a ton of crappy films. A ton. And they're the good types of crap films too, the Big Budget Disappointments. 

Suddenly I had a list again...

Top Ten Worsts Films of 2015

10. Star Wars The Force Awakens

Gasp! But... but... people love it! It made a billion-zillion god damn dollars in 12 days! Han Solo! It was fun! I know, I know, but listen, here's the thing... it was also kind of disappointing, and in ways it didn't have to be either.

Let me be clear right from the start... I kind of liked it too. I mean, I don't love it or anything, but it's all right. It's definitely all right. I was mostly entertained. In fact, I'll probably see it again in the theatre. Plus, I was really glad to see that it did a reasonably good job of bringing back a much loved franchise. I'm actually excited to see what the next film is going to do. I loved all the Star Wars stuff.

It was the JJ Abrams stuff I had issues with...

Now, this didn't really surprise me, he has the same problems in every film he makes, so this was about what I was expecting. For awhile now, the best case scenario that I was hoping for would be for the film to hew closer to his Star Trek film from 2009 (dumb, but fun), instead of his follow-up Star Trek Into Darkness (just dumb). And it really did, but at the same time the script issues were just short of being a deal breaker. Characters disappearing, vague motivations for story lines that go nowhere, another god damn Deathstar...? And what the fuck is a map to a person? Why not just circle the planet he's on? Better yet. just write it down. Who even drew the damn thing 38 years ago and put it in the "Imperial Archives"? And who cut out the missing piece 38 years ago? Why? Y'see, Abrams' problem is that he makes good looking and fairly watchable films with stories that rely too heavily on Mcguffins and multiple coincidences, stories that then fall apart as soon as you give them a second thought, and that's because he sacrifices story foundation and character moments for forward momentum, which leaves all of his big moments unearned.

And the worst part is, it doesn't have to be this way.

I mean, why the hell wouldn't Poe look for BB-8 a little harder? The film starts out going on and on about how important this info is, but apparently it wasn't that important since Poe stood up from the crash and went: "Where's BB-8? (looks around) Oh well, guess I'll just go home." Also, when you cut the scene where Finn reports to Phasma after the raid on the village, you miss the opportunity to provide context not just for both of the characters, but the First Order itself. Also, during the whole scavenging scene in the beginning, there were several moments where you could've shown Rey's mechanical genius, her desire to be a pilot, and even that she was gifted in the Force, her three most important character traits. If they had done that, it wouldn't have seemed so out-of-left-field when she suddenly had these skills to call upon. Also, if there were a few more world-building scenes done early on, if the Resistance's relationship to the Senate was explored a little more, the moment the Senate is destroyed might have had some emotional impact, or at the very least, we could've understood why Leia's group was even called the Resistance in the first place. It goes on and on and on. Its frustrating. It's a frustrating film. It's fun, sure, but it's also really lazy, relying on fans to fill in gaps with off-screen meta-knowledge rather than relying on good story telling. It's just this close to being great, but it feels like a film where the script needed one more draft.

I look at it like this, yeah, it's kind of fun, but as it stands right now, when this film comes out on DVD, I don't think I'm going to buy it, and that's really disappointing to me.

And that's why it's Number 10 on my list.

9. Jupiter Ascending

Oh man, I really wanted to like this film. I really, really wanted to. I watched the trailers. I wrote about it, a couple of times even. I mean, the Wachowskis unleashed on a brand new original sci-fi property? I was totally ready for this.

But it was terrible.

There's no denying this. Jupiter Ascending is a lifeless, forgettable lump of a film. The lead character has no agency, and mostly just falls from high places so that she can be caught by Channing Tatum. The two of them together have a chemistry that is somehow worse than Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman, both of them seemingly made of stone. Honestly, I'm not entirely convinced they weren't shot in separate rooms and then CGI-ed in together later. This is a film that kind of stumbles between moments. It's never clear why anything is at stake, or why anything the characters do either help or hurt the situation. There's too many bad guys, who either get too much screen time being vaguely villainous, or hardly any at all, which makes you wonder why they were even included in the first place. Plus, are the bad guys royalty, or a corporation? Does Queen of the Universe really mean Queen of the Universe, because it doesn't seem to, it seems to mean newest Vice President of Acquisitions maybe. And is the bad guys' main industry really seeding planets, and then waiting the millions of years for some kind of human-like people to evolve far enough so that they can then harvest those people and... squeeze them like oranges, I guess?... for their Immortality Juice? That's a ridiculously long commitment to a really overly-complex system. Why not just have breeding farms that run continuously? There's no clear answer why the Harvest has to be done. And at the end, if the bad guys keep on taking their Immortality Juice, and Mila Kunis' character doesn't (because it's liquid people), then what did she really gain? Couldn't the bad guys just wait the probably 60-ish odd years left before her character dies of old age, and then harvest Earth? Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death described this film best, saying that it "feels like a rushed adaptation of a book you never read."

The worst part is, the film looks great. There's some fantastic sequences, like the one where they have to navigate the bureaucracy of the Corporation? That's so good (and apparently directed by Terry Gilliam which explains why it stood out, I guess). It's stuffed to bulging with great designs and ideas, but there's just nothing there. Nothing. And by the time it limps to the end, its dull and boring.

I think this was my biggest disappointment of the year.

8. Jurassic World

Now, if you've already skimmed this list, you've seen what's on it, so I want to make sure that you understand that, I don't want to imply that I hate popular mainstream films. I am a big fan of all of the Marvel movies, this is known, so putting summertime tentpole actiony type films on the list is not a snob thing. I also don't want to imply it's an anti "popcorn film" thing either. I mean, I own Abrams' Star Trek film from 2009, and that movie is super dumb. So, no... loud, obnoxious, silly, dumb, I have no problem with these kind of films. I've probably seen more of those types of films than you have. I really do like them...

As long as they're done well.

And that's not this film, from the pedestrian film-making, to the swiss army knife type of dinosaur villain that pops up periodically like it's Jurassic Jason, to human villains that are needlessly villainous despite never actually doing anything evil, to the whole trained Raptors subplot, to a pair of boys that have no reason to be in the movie at all beyond franchise tradition, to a love story-line with no foundation or chemistry, let alone a reason to exist, to the ridiculous high heels worn by a woman who works in a god damn zoo, literally nothing actually works within the script. The film will act like it does, but only if you don't look too close. There's lots of running and screaming, but no actual reason for any of it to be happening beyond the immediate moment. It's just the latest in a film franchise built on awe and wonder, but for some reason is completely lacking in those traits. It's a film that seems to be damning its own very existence with its threadbare setting/plot about a dinosaur park that is forced to continually make things bigger, bigger, bigger in order to keep the audiences interested, until it finally destroys itself in the pursuit. To make it even worse, the film seems unaware of this.

If video stores still existed, I would call this movie the new Avatar... a lot of noise at first, and one of the biggest box offices ever, but no one is going to give it a second thought in two years. If Video Stores exist, it would have disappeared into the back stacks forever as soon as it came off the New Release wall.

7. Trainwreck

I hate to make the obvious joke (no, I don't), but the title of this film is not lying, folks... this movie is a trainwreck. A big, stupid, boring, tonally confused trainwreck.

I love Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. They're super funny. I'm... well, I'm cooling on Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks will live forever in my heart, but I feel like his movies have been a step down in quality since the beginning, each one more cloying and half-assed than the last. I know some of you might be mad to hear that at first, but just think about it for a second, every movie he has made has been worse than the previous one. With Trainwreck, I hope we have finally hit the bottom. This is a movie where you can see they never quite had a whole script, that instead they treated half of it like an Improv show, putting together three or four groups--Amy's friends, Amy's co-workers, Amy's family--each one filled with funny people in the obvious hope they might riff their way into something funny, but it never happens, it all flops. At least half the film contributes nothing to the main story, which is Amy as a fuck-up party girl, living the TV dream in NYC, working for a magazine, and writing an article about Bill Hader's sports doctor character, who she is supposed to fall in love with, almost lose right before the ending, and then, after making a grand nonsense gesture, live happily ever after with, but then the script veers wildly into darkness for awhile, forgetting about the main plot, before seemingly realizing its misstep and veering back while trying to act like it didn't veer off in the first place, salvaging the article plot line for a big wet fart of a finish.

The wild tonal shifts don't just affect the movie, but the individual scenes too, ping-ponging half-assedly between funny and serious. I mean, is this movie supposed to about a young woman with man problems and the funny sit-com alcoholism, or is she supposed to actually have the type of problem that a Pointer Sisters Scored Montage can't fix? The film has no idea. and this is unfair to the audience who went in expecting a Romantic Comedy, maybe not a good one necessarily, but still... and that's not what the movie gives you, all while acting like it thinks it's doing just that.

Even more than The Force Awakens, this felt like a film with an uncompleted script that thought it would be able to salvage itself in Post-production, but... it didn't. It really didn't.

Not funny. Not good.

6. Spectre

After Casino Royale, I was okay with Daniel Craig staying Bond forever, right? I think we all were. But after Spectre...? Now I'm ready for them to never make another one.

Did you see it? From as little that was said post-release, it seemed like people mostly didn't, or wanted to forget they had. That makes sense. this movie is basically the anti-Casino Royale. Everything Casino Royale did well, everything it rebooted and revitalized, all the good will it helped to return to a mostly dead franchise, it destroyed, first by giving fans what they've long wanted, (something this year has proven to be the worst possible of ideas)--the Evil Organization of Spectre, headed by the diabolical Blofeld, who has a menacing henchman--and then by trying to tie the main villain into the plots of the previous films, which not only undermines those films, but doesn't make any sense at all, and finally, most importantly... just by being so god damn terrible. The film gives no thought to story logic, or the idea of a plausible resolution. Is Bond not killing the bad guy supposed to be a triumph? I mean, what exactly did the main bad guy do that they could use to convict him and send him to jail for? What proof do they have of his wrong-doings? And were we really supposed to believe that the blond girl and Bond even knew each others' first names, let alone had somehow fallen in love? Are we noticing a pattern here, people? One: Fanservice is death to quality, and Two: There doesn't have to be a love story in every god damn movie just because a penis and a vagina happen to occasionally be in the same room.

And honestly, most of all, when your last three films have centered on the question of whether or not Bond is an outdated remnant of the Cold War world, then it's either time to pull the trigger on that lame horse, or find a new fucking tune to dance to.

5. Tomorrowland

This film is a total mess.

Mostly made up of an old man's rant about how shitty the modern world is, and how dystopian fiction is to blame, it's nominally supposed to follow the journey of a girl with big dreams and a bigger heart who has to save the world through the power of a bunch of nonsense and wind-baggery dressed up as science, but it contains lines like this: "Do I have to explain everything? Can't you just be amazed and move on?" which is a weirdly anti-intellectual line for a supposedly pro-science film. Well over two-thirds of the film is given over to set-up and character gathering and looooooong soliloquies about how great science is, and how it would've saved the world if it wasn't for those pesky safety regulations, before getting to the actual plot. This is one of those movies where it spends so much time running around and screaming, that you don't even realize you're watching the climax of the story until right before the movie is over. I mean, from the amount of time the film spends on the little lapel pin the heroine is given alone, you'd think it would an important piece of the story, but you would be wrong, as it's abandoned like an afterthought.

And that's not even the craziest part!

In the movie, George Clooney's character is still broken-hearted in love with the adolescent girl robot character that his character dated when he was 12, and when they meet again some thirty to forty years later, and he's old man George Clooney and she's still an adolescent girl robot, the film acts like every scene where they argue about their old relationship isn't actually ridiculously creepy.

Something else that's also odd? Despite her complete inability to wear a baseball cap convincingly, the actual star of the movie is Britt Robertson--an actress clearly in her late 20s playing a role that seems like it was supposed to be high school aged--but she is removed from the climax of the movie. Well, to be fair, she's busy thinking deus ex machina happy thoughts while George and his pre-teen girlfriend blow up shit, but still... the film side-lines the main character.

This movie goes on for awhile, barely tells a story, and then it just kind of ends. I imagine the lights coming up in the theatres, and the oddball mish-mash of freaks who actually went out to see this, slowly standing up, hesitant and looking at each other, unsure if the film is actually over or not. I think Disney was hoping for the same magic that happened after the first Pirates of the Caribbean film maybe, but after seeing the movie, it's clear to see why they dumped this film, and moved on.

In fact, let's all move on...

4. Terminator Genisys

The fact that this aggressively stupid film doesn't handily own the number one spot on this list really says a lot about the top three films ahead of it, because this is an unbelievably stupid film.

I mean, there's kernels of cool ideas here, There's a ton of interesting options--the idea is that the Temporal War is out of control and various time travelers are appearing in previously visited time lines and changing shit, that's all right, and I would love a film about Schwarzenegger's old man Terminator working a construction job for thirty years while he's waiting for Sarah to show back up--but no, whenever something sounds like it might be interesting in this film, it ruins it instead. If there's a dumb idea possible, this film latches on with both hands and refuses to let go. Nearly every single story decision in this film is terrible, and if I made a complete list of all of the lazy callbacks this movie makes to its better predecessors, it would kill you. It would literally kill you. I'm not even going to explain Matt Smith's character, or what they do with John Connor, because it's too stupid, but rest assured, at the 20 minutes or so left mark, just when you think you can see finish line, when you think you're safe, that there's nothing left ahead to endure but the obligatory smashing together of the pixels before Puddle of Mud, or possibly Stained, maybe Evanescence, launch into the end credits song, but nooooooooo... that's when Terminator Genisys is like, "fuck you, asshole! You thought you knew stupid? I will show you stupid!" And then it does. It does. And let me assure you, people... it is awful. It's not even "get drunk and watch it" bad, it's just bad. The people behind this film should all be fined.

Seriously, it's so dumb. Don't watch it. Ever.

3. Fantastic Four

The film that was doomed from the beginning. No pun intended.

Before this film came out, the director, cast and crew were out doing their press rounds, saying words like: "re-invention" and "gritty" and "lo-fi" and "grounded", and everyone got a bad feeling, because when you go out to see a movie called The FANTASTIC Four, the one thing you want to see is a "grounded" story.

Change is a requirement when you're adapting a book/comic to the screen. It has to happen. The secret to Marvel's success--and conversely, the reason this movie was such an abysmal failure--is that as they're adapting their properties for the movie screen, updating them for time, society, and their own cinematic continuity, they're still preserving the inner core of the idea, the thing that has driven the property to stay viable for 50-60 years. The little changes, the cosmetic changes, those things don't matter. Sure, I mean, it's cooler to have the Fantastic Four steal a rocket-ship and go up into space and get blasted with cosmic rays, but traveling to a parallel dimension? That works too. Who cares, right? But when you leave out the Sue Storm, the only female character on the team, from making that trip for no apparent reason, opting instead to just send the three guys plus Victor Von Doom, when you could've just sent all five...? I mean... what the hell?

This isn't the only problem, of course, just the creepiest.

Mostly the film is unexciting. It is decidedly UN-fantastic in the most unimaginative ways. The character work is almost non-existent, so much so that you don't quite believe most of the characters have ever even met each other. It's bad even from a technical standpoint, jokes flop, scenes feel stunted, it's hacked apart and poorly pasted together, obviously missing several prominent scenes from the trailers. They basically took a family-centered, exploration-driven, wild adventure sci-fi property, and churned out a half-ass dark, dour and dull version like it's an escapee from the black leather trench coat world of 90s action cinema. And it's yet another example of a movie where you suddenly realize you're watching the climax of the story mere minutes before the stupid thing ends.

Upon watching this complete wet fart misfire of a film, the question of whether or not Fox was only making this film in order to keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel is pretty clearly answered.

2. Entourage

Okay, I'll admit it, I haven't seen this movie, but... come on. It's the fucking Entourage movie, man. Come on! Come on. You guys... come on.

Seriously, come on....

1. Chappie

This one could be the worst movie ever made.

It's a total trash heap of a film. It's awful in every single way a thing can be considered awful. Everything is terrible in the movie, well... except for the CGI of the robot, that was very well done, but honestly if that is the only thing you're able to do right, than who cares? Way to almost completely fail at all aspects of your job...

Chappie starts out as a fake documentary, but then completely abandons the idea for the rest of the movie, and that drove me nuts. I mean, did he forget he was using that conceit? What happened? It didn't even come back at the very end. How does that happen? How did they not notice when watching the film later? "Oh yeah... the documentary thing... shit."

That bugs me so much.

Another weird little thing that bothered me--there's more than just little complaints, of course, there's actually a long litany of them, big and little, but I'm not going to bother going through it all. Basically, if a thing is supposed to happen in a movie, or when telling a story, just assume Chappie did a shit job of it... but I digress--Anyway, there's a central conflict in the movie that involves two different robot designs competing for the contract to police the city, one is designed like the one on the poster, and the other is more like the ED-209 from Robocop, and it drives me crazy that the ED-209 robot is clearly better suited as a military weapon, but no one in the film seems to notice this. In fact, in the film, the cops say no the ED-209 design because they don't need a robot cop with missiles, and yet no one brings up the option of selling it to the military instead, opting to use this "failure" as the thing that makes one of the characters become a villain. It makes no sense, and it drives me crazy. Also, Sharlo Copley is at his most unbearably obnoxious in this film, playing the innocent baby robot, and I hate him so much for it. Just picture him on set, being all serious, playing that role in a CGI suit, I just hate him so much...

I would say the tone veers wildly in this film, lurching between a gorefest action film, an angry police state screed, and a trash-punk Short Circuit re-imagining, but it has no real tone to begin with, and barely any story, so I just have to assume that any appearance of an attempt at a theme/tone is really an accident, just like District 9 obviously was. I mean, the god damn thing ends with the stupid Chappie robot beating the bad guy nearly to death, all while screaming "No more violence!"

I mean... what the fuck...?

Also, of terrible, terrible note... the South African "rap" group Die Antwoord is in the film, playing the dumbest criminals ever, but they use their own "rap" names. And they listen to music by Die Antwoord... but they're not Die Antwoord... they're supposed to be different people. It's inexplicable.

Look, just don't watch this film, and whatever you do, do not Google Hugh Jackman's haircut in the movie either. It's a crime against humanity.


And there you go. I'm spent.

So tired...

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