January 11, 2016
Sigh. Another year...and
yet another smorgasbord of depressingly awful films screened.
Even though it's a soul-sucking experience to have countless hours
of one’s life wasted in a darkened cinema watching so many putrid films
every year, I really dig writing these Worst Films blogs. I really do. They
effectively allow me to exorcise my moviegoing demons that have stayed
with me during any given year, not to mention that they further allow me
to participate in a public service to inform you all of films that you
should probably avoid at all costs. Movies
are an art form, sure, but they're also a corporate business, and most of
these films mentioned pathetically seem to be either lazily cashing in on
overused genre trends…or are just feebly trying to make a quick buck by
nonsensically throwing just about anything on the screen and hoping it
I think that the ten worst reasons to enter a cinema in the year
that was reflects many damning trends…and a few new frustrating
ones. Erotic-less erotic
thrillers (three) made the cut, as did an overproduced sci-fi action
thriller that had no business being as awful as it was considering the
talent on board. Lame and
uninspired buddy comedies, as per usually, makes another appearance here,
as does an egregiously misguided video game to movie adaptation.
Then we have the obligatory comedy sequel to a film that never
required a sequel, followed by an even worse remake of an iconic comedy
classic. Lastly, we have arguably two of the most head-shakingly
wrongheaded films of 2015 in terms of approach and execution. One is a
super hero reboot and the other is inexplicably directed by Cameron Crowe,
but they both just as well could have been helmed by Ed Wood Jr..
I can’t see a reason to further elaborate on my wall-of-shame
selections below. Let the
cold-hearted critical drubbing begin.
Here are the TEN WORST FILMS of 2015, followed by two dishonorable
SHADES OF GREY
order for a film to receive a dreaded zero star rating from me it has to
do one of the following: (a) It has to be artistically bankrupted in most
respects and/or (b) I have to find the film’s inherent material morally
pretty sure that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was a rare double threat offender in
have nothing against erotic fiction.
I really don’t.
The main sin of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY – the long awaited film
adaptation of E.L. James’s first novel of the same name – was that
it was neither erotic nor inherently dramatic.
It also begged the question as to how a kinky sex thriller steeped in
sadomasochistic fetishes could be so unrelentingly…dull and boring.
At a punishing 127 minutes, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was a pure
endurance test of will, not made any more watchable even with its multiple
sex scenes, which were populated by two lead actors (Jamie Dornan
and Dakota Johnson) that never had a scintilla of on-screen chemistry
whatsoever (Johnson did what she could with her lamentable part, but
Dornan was just an emotionless, half naked mannequin most of the time).
That, and there’s just something inherently unsavory and – dare
I say it – dirty about a male suitor that’s essentially a deviant
sexual predator that uses women for trophy-like conquests.
yet...female audiences ate this film up.
And that saddens me to no end.
PURSUIT was as cringe worthy of a film to endure as just about any during
2015. It was one of those paper thin and dime-a-dozen buddy comedies that inspired more
gag reflexes than laughter in audiences.
The fact that it starred Reese Witherspoon – hot off of her Oscar
nomination for WILD – made the
film all the more shameful.
is a very competent comedic actress when compelled to be with the right
material and director.
Her co-star in Sofia Vergara also has strong comic chops, as
displayed on TV in AMERICAN FAMILY.
Yet, the pairing of these two actresses made for a highly
disagreeable gasoline on fire combination that never once made the road
trip antics of their respective characters even remotely entertaining to
yet was that neither actress was really playing flesh and blood and
believable characters here: Witherspoon played up to every lame brained
southern law stereotype in the book to the point of it being head shaking, whereas
Vergara had such a toxically dislikeable personality throughout the film
that you have to wonder why any human being would want to spend 5 minutes
alone with this person.
Thankfully and mercifully, HOT PURSUIT was just 86 minutes, but it
just as well felt like 866 minutes of pure torture for me.
a time many years ago when the name Cameron Crowe attached to any film
inspired limitless confidence in viewers?
of the good will that critics and audience members have bestowed upon the
writer/director are starting to fade rather fast, which was made all the
more apparent with the release of ALOHA, which just may be Crowe’s most
confused and slapdash effort of his career.
There was seemingly so much that was uncaringly crammed into this
film’s story that one has to question whether the resulting effort was
the product of an unworthy first draft screenplay.
The film’s lush Hawaiian settings were indeed magnificent to
behold, but Crowe just used them as a backdrop for his strange menagerie
of characters to populate a story that was utterly shapeless and without
a definitive roadmap. To this
day, I still don’t know what ALOHA was trying to be about, nor do I
really care at this point. It
a haphazardly phoned-in Crowe effort that barely made me feel anything for
anyone in it…and don’t get me started on Emma Stone playing a half
Asian/half Hawaiian military lady. Huh?
BOY NEXT DOOR
vey. Another FATAL ATTRACTION-esque, fill-in-the-blank-from-hell thriller.
In this fill-in-the-blank-from-hell case the film concerns a
psychotic high school boy that begins an illicit sexual fling with his
mid-fortysomething teacher that turns into a lethally dangerous
Yeah. I hated THE BOY NEXT DOOR. It was
terrible and silly.
year and yet another pathetically awful
video game to film adaptation that was not even really trying hard to be
good at all.
a passionate gamer alongside being a cinephile, so my hatred of HITMAN:
AGENT 47 doesn't come from a place of misguided ignorance regarding the
video game industry as a whole.
No, this newest iteration of the cinematic HITMAN franchise (coming
off of the equally putrid 2007 Timothy Olyphant version, based on the
Square Enix game series) was awful because it was just insipidly envisioned
and executed. With
a lead character that was about as soulless as any that I’ve encountered
in any recent action thriller (based on a video game character or not),
featuring moronic plotting that had me asking far too many questions, and
containing action sequences replete with B-grade computer effects that
made the human characters look like rubber puppets and what you’re left
with was a messy, hollow, and completely uninspired game-to-film adaptation
that was barely worthy of a direct-to-video release.
Also, note to Hollywood: When attempting to reboot an already lackluster
first entry, don’t hire the same screenwriter that worked on that
film to pen the new one.
Yet another erotic thriller makes the list, this time of the murder
mystery variety. No
kinky FIFTY SHADES OF GREY sexcapades here.
THE LOFT – a film that audience members avoided like the proverbial
plague, and rightfully so – committed arguably the same cinematic sins
as the worst film of 2015 in terms of being an erotic thriller that was
never sensual. It
also was a mystery thriller that was not particularly suspenseful or
enthralling as a who-dunnit.
What’s even more inconceivable is that it was directed by Erik
Van Looy…who…wait for it…already made this same film in 2008 as a
The biggest issue with THE LOFT was that it never made me care.
male character here was either a duplicitous minded jerk, a being of pure
evil, or a frightening combination of the two, which sure made engaging
in the moral predicaments of these characters all the more
LOFT was empty and shallow and it made me feel equally empty and shallow
as a person for having seen it.
the hilarious and endearing Chevy Chase starring, Harold Ramis directed,
and John Hughes scripted 1983 original?
of course you do, and that film was precisely what I was both thinking
about and yearning for all throughout watching this dreary, unfunny,
crass, vulgar, and genuinely shameless cinematic reboot. Now, the
original VACATION film could hardly be described as a family film (for its
certainly earned its R rating,). Yet, the characters of that film felt tangible and their family came off like a
genuine family, so much so that it left you nostalgic for your own
memories - painful or enjoyable - of your own treks down the holiday road
with mother, father, and siblings in tow. The family that occupies
this new iteration never once - not for a solitary moment - felt as
endearingly sweet and dysfunctional as the original Griswalds. More
disconcerting with this new film was the fact that the makers felt that
upping the ante on puerile bathroom and bodily function humor was somehow progressive
minded. Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are talented comedians and
were well cast here, but the script they were forced to trudge through
should have been thrown in a raw sewage lake to rot. Ironically, the
characters of this film actually find themselves in a raw sewage lake,
thinking its fecal matter is actually purifying mud.
TUB TIME MACHINE 2
be fair, I greatly enjoyed the first HOT TUB TIME MACHINE because of its
willingness to fully embrace the sheer silliness of its inherent premise
– men go back in time via, yes, a hot tub time machine to re-live
their glory days as teenagers during the 1980’s – not to
mention that it was grounded in nostalgia for an era that I grew up in.
There was a wink-wink level of self-deprecating humor to the film
that was hard to dislike.
almost nothing to like about this criminally unnecessary sequel,
which lost the first film’s biggest star in John Cusack and thought that
it could coast by on the inherent charms of the remaining cast members.
Also gone in this sequel was the first film’s sly and subversive
commentary on the decade of material excess.
Instead, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 paraded its game and on-board cast
members through a litany of unfunny gross-out gags and crass vulgarity.
Perhaps the most irritating element of this sequel was that it
reduced the film’s likeable heroes to deplorable, self-serving, and
obnoxious a-holes that truly stunted anyone’s enjoyment for round two.
TUB TIME MACHINE was a great in-joke movie.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 was just a sick joke of a movie.
just know that you’re in deep trouble when an elaborately expensive
sci-fi film contains the line of dialogue, “Bees are genetically
designed to recognize royalty.”
ASCENDING just may be one of the best looking awful movies that I’ve
seen in many a moon. It
was a would be enthralling and involving sci-fi saga from the Wachowski
siblings, the same pair that, yes, bestowed THE MATRIX to us all those
years ago. The
problem with this film was not with its conceptual design and visual
effects (which were uniformly stellar and evocative); no, the real issue
with JUPITER ASCENDING was that its plot was borderline incoherent and
left me scratching my head out of self-loathing confusion.
Even when characters in the film talked and talked…and talked…in
an effort to explain the convoluted web of plot particulars, the film still
remained a distant and aloof mystery to me.
By the time Channing Tatum showed up as a – not making this up –
intergalactic and genetically engineered half wolf/half man hero to save
the day…even the sheer laughable preposterousness of his character
didn’t elicit enough unintentional laughter in me to sustain my interest
in JUPITER ASCENDING.
most depressing is that the Wachowskis will probably never be given a
large budget to work with again in Hollywood after this colossal box
office bomb. They
are indeed visionaries, but this film proved that no amount of money
thrown at a large scale studio effort can save it from being bafflingly
ill conceived on a premise and narrative level.
has never – and I do mean never – been a more woefully mismanaged
super hero film than FANTASTIC FOUR.
It was simply one of the most joyless, dull, and foolishly
envisioned big budget adaptations of a comic book series that’s been placed
on screen. I’ve
rarely seen such a botched opportunity to do justice to a super hero movie
property, but FANTASTIC FOUR astoundingly and shockingly was a Thing-sized
trainwreck on multiple levels.
could this have happened?
Director John Trank previously made the remarkably confident and
inventive CHRONICLE (a super
hero found footage film), but here he somehow managed to squander an
amazingly assembled cast and vastly larger budgetary resources to make a
new version of Marvel Comics’ iconic super hero series that was never
once thrilling nor endearing.
The Fantastic Four has always been a series that has played up to
the characters’ eccentric and inherent weirdness, but this film version
never tapped into that and rarely made these colorful personas ring true.
And witnessing some of the strongest and most empowered young
actors working today (like Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordon) utterly
slum their way through these pathetically rendered roles was beyond
the qualitative writing was on the wall for this film when reports of
production distress surfaced on social media, not to mention Trank’s
infamous ramblings on Twitter regarding studio meddling
days before the film’s release (very quickly removed after being posted)
left a very bad taste
in the mouths of most filmgoers as to the resulting film to come.
No matter which party was directly to blame for FANTASTIC FOUR, it
emerged as an embarrassing mess for all
felt good. My TEN WORST
list is complete...but I'm not done yet! Here's a few more films that were not
terrible enough to make the TEN WORST, but were easily forgettable all the same.
NEGLIGIBLE FILMS OF 2015
TRANSPORTER REFUELED: No
Jason Statham = no dice for this lousy and desperate franchise
LAZARUS EFFECT: A
terrible horror thriller about scientists reanimating the dead
that was ironically made up of too many stale and overused genre
WEDDING RINGER: Every
year lately seems to have one abysmally wretched nuptials comedy:
this was 2015's offering.
BLART: MALL COP 2: Criminally
unfunny sequel to the fairly enjoyable and lightweight original.
DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT:
second entry in the mostly boring INSURGENT series was an even
bigger cure for insomnia than its antecedent.
disappointing film of the year considering that Tarsem
Singh was the director; his visual talent was no where to
be found here.
LAST WITCH HUNTER: Intriguing
premise was done no
favors by insipid scripting and an overuse of CGI
overkill in this Vin Diesel powered horror thriller.
One of the most visually dynamic
fantasies of the year was also dramatically hollow to its
reasonably well acted coming-of-age drama that was a bit
too paper thin when it came to character dynamics.
incredibly nifty classic video game era premise
was squandered by infantile humor and a completely
phoned-in Adam Sandler performance.
disaster porn action film was heavy on visual
effects, but decidedly low on relatable human
another found footage film that seemed to have an
incredibly difficult time justifying its existence
as a found footage film.
even the appearance of acting heavyweights like
Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore could save this disposable
and forgettable fantasy.
Mann has made some of the modern era's defining
films, but BLACKHAT was far too banal and lacking
in tension to be worthy of the director's high
been an apologist of this series since the
beginning, but it was really hard to justify this
third TAKEN entry on any concrete level.
And finally, here's a dishonorable
mention list of films that I felt were more disappointing than
OPPORTUNITIES of 2015
THE HEART OF THE SEA: This
film - based on a true story that inspired the writing of MOBY DICK - was
a visual dynamo, but director Ron Howard rarely found time to populate it with
well drawn characters.
though this cinematic reboot injected some novelty into Mary
Shelley's legendary novel, the resulting film simply ran out of
creative gas the longer it progressed.
NIGHT BEFORE: The
winning trio of Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony
Mackie brought their A-game to this Yuletide comedy that was a few
script re-writes short of achieving high hilarity.
HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2:
Coming off of two
solid HUNGER GAMES sequels, MOCKINGJAY PART 2 felt padded and
Daniel Craig is the
definitive James Bond of our generation, but the newest 007
adventure regressively strayed away from the reboot series'
established core elements.
Keanu Reeves gave
a wacko performance of go-for-broke intensity in this
home invasion thriller, but logic was too cheerfully thrown out of
duo of Barry Levinson and Bill Murray should have been a win-win
here, but this Middle East showbiz satire lacked a sarcastic bite.
well meaning and noble minded, but achingly safe documentary about
a disease-riddled child being granted his ultimate wish.
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS:
I greatly enjoyed
the first MAZE RUNNER film as a retooled riff on THE LORD OF THE
FLIES, but this sequel got too bogged down in contrived
post-apocalyptic genre troupes.
found footage M. Night Shyamalan horror thriller was arguably his
best film in years...which is ultimately not saying much if one
looks at his recent resume.
WALK IN THE WOODS: Robert
Redford and Nick Nolte were absolutely stellar in this otherwise mediocre
fairly intense human survival thriller that never overcame its sensationalistic
B-grade exploitation elements.
slick and subversively funny action comedy that suffered from an
could a post-war period drama featuring the likes of Tom Hardy,
Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Noomi Rapace waste its cast so much
in a confused screenplay? I'm still asking myself that very
pained me to place the newest Pixar film here, but INSIDE OUT
simply failed to linger with me as the greatest entries from the
acclaimed studio have in the past.
staggeringly well mounted fourth film in the series from a
technical standpoint, but it lacked modest logic on a story and concept level.
FROM NEW YORK!
A lively and
involving, but ultimately very self-congratulatory documentary
about the long standing late night variety show.
Adaptation of the
popular HBO series embraced its core fans while failing to give
lay audience members a valid reason for caring.
Brad Bird's lush and extravagantly
rendered fantasy lacked a suitable payoff that did service to
everything that preceded it.
AGE OF ULTRON: Overstuffed
sequel to the popular original had simply too much going on in it
that distracted from the whole.
AGE OF ADELINE: Interesting
mortality drama that was bolstered by strong performances, but
weak execution of core ideas.
action thriller with some noble themes that were lost in its
muddled approach with the material.
Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg hadve great chemistry in this otherwise
mundane and forgettable family revenge comedy.
Ferrell entry here, this time a prison-themed comedy, but it was
as equally disposable as DADDY'S HOME.
Vaughn is great at playing motormouths with hearts of gold, but
his performance good will was lost in this comedy that lacked
A caper film that utilized
stars Will Smith and Margo Robbie to solid effect, but the film's
payoff was kind of laughable.
George Lucas conceived animated musical that had some fresh ideas,
but they never felt like they gelled cohesively together.
A preposterous caper comedy featuring a
very game Johnny Depp that seemed awfully confused as to its
Jennifer Lawrence was dependably solid in
this otherwise confused fact based drama from director David O.
H O M E