Read my watchlist/So Bad It’s Good of 2016 here
I hate these preambles, but I need to clear some things up for the three people who follow this blog, or those who will read my older posts:
My honourable and dishonourable mentions are gone. This is simply because my Best and Worst lists are not limited by 10 movies. I also realised that, between the main lists and the mentions, I would have had over half the movies I saw on their from last year, and I felt that that takes away from the impact of either list. A movie needs to be really fucking good or really fucking bad for me to want to talk about or recommend/recommend avoiding.
Also, for the hell of it: if I saw Assassin’s Creed or The Son of Joseph last year they would have absolutely been on this list. AC is bad enough to be in the bottom ten, fyi. There were probably others, but the great thing about terrible movies not attached to franchises or creators I like is that I don’t remember them.
Oh, two of the movies that survived the list last minute would likely have been my most controversial ones: I am Not a Serial Killer and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. They weren’t removed out of cowardice (I wouldn’t have mentioned them here were that the case), but both had at least enough for me not to consider them the worst of a bad lot. Congratulations; ye survived the cut! For now…
Anyway, on with:
Worst Movies of 2016
37. The Girl King
The tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden is certainly an interesting one, and there’s absolutely no complaints about more LGBT representation in film, particularly one based on true events. It’s a shame, then, that this pithy and rather lacklustre film should be the one to commemorate the significant tale. With boring, horribly wooden actors, a script that is lacking any focus, direction that is trying way too hard to be polished and pristine and takes away a lot of life from this very emotional story, and overall poor pacing and significant development from our lead, it’s a costume drama that should have stayed on the stage. Disappointing and horrifically forgettable.
36. Now You See Me 2
The original Now You See Me is a silly yet fun attempt at a Christopher Nolan film with a solid cast and a stupid ending. The sequel took what little worked about that film and turned it up to 90. Obnoxious and poorly planned out camera work, an all-star cast who look bored (outside of an enthused and horribly wasted Lizzy Caplan), implausible and stupid twist after implausible and stupid twist, it took what little disbelief you could suspend and breaks it almost entirely. For their next trick, let’s hope this franchise that managed to lose steam in its second movie disappears.
Fun fact, guy who directed this is pretty young. Like, still a teenager young. And this isn’t even his first feature. That should be credited, and he will go on to achieve more than I will ever dream of. I just think this movie is shit. A bunch of forgettable characters in an obnoxious found footage movie are being examined by two lost cops in a framing device that adds nothing to the proceedings. The scares are lame, none of the characters talk in a remotely natural way, the convenience at which they find these recordings is hilarious, and all of this culminates in a nonsensical clusterfuck of a finale. I look forward to seeing this guy’s name pop up again in future movies, and I hope they impress me more than this shit.
34. Why Him?
Bryan Cranston is one of the most talented actors working, maybe even ever. He manages to play a ‘type’ while still being dynamic, nuanced, well developed and diving into roles the likes of which I haven’t seen another actor do quite so astutely. It’s a pity all of this has been in Walter White, and we’ve yet to see him hit the big screen with something even an inch as compelling. This is a low even for him. Outside of how irritatingly obnoxious his entire dynamic with James Franco is, the premise itself has a really creepy undertone to it (no, I don’t care that the movie lampshades it at the end-that’s not an out). This has some of the most painful and stupid gags in a film I have seen in a while-EVERYTHING is obviously set up and you can see them all coming a mile away. Combine that with some way too on the nose ‘funny’ dialogue and a protagonist who goes beyond any redeemable hope, and you have one of the worst comedies from a year with some pretty wretched ones. And this won’t be the last on this list…
33. Fear Itself
So I already talked about this movie in my Cork Film Festival blog, but it truly is wretched. It’s a snorefest of a documentary, trying to gain some interconnected link as to why horror films are so fascinating to people, and just kind of rambles on about some movies the director likes (unlike I, who is currently rambling about some movies I hated). To bore me and have me sitting there wanting to see all these movies instead of yours is one thing, but to spoil good movies in your shitty doc. is the step too far for me. Find the list of the flicks this guy talks about and just watch those instead, ineffective and bereft of a solid point.
32. Suicide Squad*
Time will tell what kind of legacy Suicide Squad and this painfully flaccid era of Warner Bros DC films will behold. While I stand by my not hating it as much as others did, it’s still a terribly made, horribly micromanaged travesty that displays how little the studio knows how to handle these properties. This has been an awful year for DC movies, and while I hope they succeed, the fact that they couldn’t make an idea with this much potential work kind of puts a dampener on any future outing.
No, the placing of this film is not intentional. Just one of those happy coincidences.
So Rob Zombie made a bad movie! Perish the thought. Again, discussed this extensively elsewhere (I was, in hindsight, perhaps a bit too harsh on Mr. Zombie), but I do want to repeat that I clearly am not the person who these movies are for. Rob has his fanbase, and they clearly get a lot out of his Americana aesthetic, over the top gore and odd sense of humour. But, even reflecting on a movie like The Devil’s Rejects (which I also didn’t like), his step down in quality is shocking. For the sake of his own fans, I hope he finds his groove again. Or try to make sense of what he wants to do in these terribly thought out, grossly offensive borefests. Til we meet again, Rob.
30. The Uncountable Laughter of the Sea
Oh look, another fucking religious film made my fucking list, what a fucking surprise. I really don’t want to be the dickhead atheist who just thinks you can’t make a compelling religious film-theology is fascinating and has left an indelible mark on our planet. And while this isn’t entirely religious-based, it is poorly filmed and meandering, one of those painful attempts of finding this combined introspection on some absolutely great poetry with the lovely landscapes of our beautiful country. Good idea in concept, doesn’t exactly work out on celluloid. If you’re a scenery fan (even scenery that isn’t *that* spectacularly filmed), and like some readings done over it, you could do worse probably. But you could also do a lot, lot better.
Anton Yelchin is a very talented actor who sadly never truly got a chance to show the potential he really had after he tragically passed away last year. This was his final movie, and I sincerely wanted to like it. From its placing on this list, you can tell how that went.
A lifeless, utterly joyless ‘love’ story with very little focus or actual investment in the characters or their relationship. Both actors are trying their best, but they’re not given much material to shine like they should. The cinematography is ugly as shit, and they keep cutting to this kind of old-fashioned handheld style which doesn’t work for the mood and is just awkward instead of adding ambiance. It’s a terribly framed, terribly told, unbearably empty movie that manages to feel about three hours long despite being a little over an hour.
28. Zoolander 2
You may find this hard to believe, but Zoolander is one of my favourite comedies. It just hits that right note of stupid and smart, with biting and uncompromising satire of the fashion industry and our obsession with celebrity, layered underneath some amazingly timed jokes about just how stupid Derek Zoolander is. Making a sequel over a decade later was always a risk, but did it have to be this bad? It does everything wrong a bad sequel should; forced humour, terrible attempts at recapturing the original, artificially ‘forwarding’ the leads without doing anything that might lose their funny, a tired and back for the pay cheque level of performances from the leads, and upping the ante only to fall flat on their ass. Hansel is no longer hot right now.
27. The Danish Girl
So Tom Hooper is a pretty awful filmmaker and wrong for this material altogether. His attempts at being emotive are washed away by his intense lack of focus and obsession with looking classy and pristine. I’m not sure what the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to receive gender reassignment surgery, exactly requires, but this mincing, gazing, incredibly drab and insultingly lifeless attempt at capturing her story is not that. The questionable way it frames transitioning aside, Eddie Redmayne continues to prove he’s a one-trick pony with his complete inability to grasp Elbe’s struggles. The only positive thing about it is Alicia Vikander, who makes her character feel like a person. Sad this is the one she won the Oscar for.
26. Keeping Up with the Jonses
Some films you can write essays on why they don’t work. Some are just shit. What could have been a funny premise (kind of Mr and Mrs Smith from the neighbours’ perspectives) with three talented actors and Gal Gadot just devolves into painful, ill thought out attempts at jokes and a complete lack of tonal consistency. There’s no attempt at balancing the action with the comedy, and the characters are so blithely uninteresting even with half of them secretly being spies! There is room for brainless joyride of comedies like this, Central Intelligence is a great example of one, but it usually requires the filmmakers to realise they’re making a film, and not a gag reel with interconnected moments maybe. An awful execution of a cute premise, and not the last spy-based comedy on this list.
(wait, there were FOUR spy-based comedies that came out this year?! The hell?!)
25. God’s Not Dead 2
ANOTHER religious movie! I’m obsessed!
So this wasn’t as bad as the first one (yay for being passed the racism, Pure Flix!), but it’s still pretty trash and has a terrible, horribly divisive message to it. There’s no sense of understanding, no real will or want to discover or discuss. It’s just go this film’s way, or fuck off you’re not wanted. The courtroom scenes are, of course, a joke, nothing in the film makes any sense, and it directly lies to you at the end. Like I said, you can make great movies with religious themes, but this is propaganda at its purest that I cannot see most Christians even enjoying. A painful and annoying load of pandering.
24. Dog Eat Dog
Look, I really wanted to like this movie. I like the cast, the director has a solid track record, and I was hoping this back to basics kind of flick would get him back on track. And it didn’t. An ugly and really confused movie, trying its hardest to make a real connection to its loathsome and uninteresting leads and give us something with substance or even memorability. Willem Dafoe is the closest this movie gets to a character, but he’s so ridiculously unlikeable that there’s nothing compelling to watch him when he pops up for a large portion of this film. Nicholas Cage, outside of a weird little oddity at the end, is also wasted. What’s trying to be a tale about gangsters trying to get back in the game and failing just ends up being a plodding and incoherent shambles. If it stupefying try-hard opening doesn’t hook you, just leave the cinemas satisfied you haven’t missed anything.
23. Secret in their Eyes
Goddamnit, Chiwetel Ejiofor, pick better work. You’re an amazing actor, you don’t need to be in this trash. Julia Roberts…you’re good.
Again, interesting set-up with former teammates exploring a past case of one of their daughter’s murder. Totally deflated by a silly as shit, way too over the top script and even goofier direction. The silly and extravagant lengths this film goes to would almost be commendable if it wasn’t so goddamn serious. As it stands, it’s really freaking dull and a waste of everyone’s time. It sports one of the most awful twists I’ve seen in quite some time as well. The only thing thrilling about this fucking thing is that it got made in the first place.
22. Apparition Hill
Look…I feel uncomfortable talking about this film. I can see it being very inspiring and powerful for people. I personally found, for example, the ending to be pretty uncomfortably invasive, but the people involved were clearly okay with it, so I can’t really play the moral police here. But even if you ignore its message, it’s just a terribly made documentary. Another goddamn religious movie, this time it’s framed in a way that is meant to be look more even keeled (two of the people who go on the pilgrimage are atheists), but its edited in such a way that really wants to push a one-sided message and it gets really eye rolling when leaving these people explore the area and figure out what the trip means to them would have been just fine. The different devices they take for footage is also really distracting-the camera quality is all over the place and not blended together well at all. If you were touched by this, then that’s fine, I just cannot imagine it’ll reach any non-theistic (or just non-Christian) people in a particularly significant way, and in my opinion making a movie about connection that fails to connect is pretty poor.
21. Dad’s Army
Confession time, I never saw the original Dad’s Army. And this could have been pretty great, as they got a great cast to replace everyone and were clearly gung ho to get something special out of this. That did not happen. Not only does it break a lot of the groundwork of what made the TV show so special in order to give it feature length conflict, Catherine Zeta Jones’ character is just a treasure trove of annoying, and ruins nearly every element of this film. Poorly conceived, oversaturated to fuck and worst of all horrifically unfunny, in a world overrun with remakes and revampings, leaving Dad’s Army back with the dads and avoiding this hackjob of a film alone was the best strategy moving forward.
20. The 5th Wave
Holy shit, if this thing isn’t proof that the dystopian young adult movie craze is dead, I don’t know what is (maybe the Divergent series ending as a TV movie without its lead). Not only is Chloe Grace Moretz just completely lost straddled with such an annoying, ineffective and passive lead, her romance with pretty boy du jour is so tacked on and painful. The stuff at the base is more interesting, but they do nothing with it and suddenly the movie completely changes their dynamic. Clearly a lot of money was dropped into this (not in the effects department though, hoo boy!), and they had a solid enough cast to make it a running franchise (Liev Schreiber is the villain!), but the foundation to do anything interesting with this story is completely lost in a movie that only gets started right as it ends. Nothing interesting, nothing compelling, horribly unoriginal and of course nearly trebled its budget so there could be more of them. For the love of Christ, let this terribly overdone trend die already!
Calling this a poor man’s Memento is an insult to that kind of movie. This is just trash. The way the story cuts tangentially through the past and present segments is so fucking badly handled; they clearly want to confuse people into thinking convoluted equals smart. The characters are either incredibly annoying, clichéd or have no discernible internal logic to anything they do (this pertains to the lead). The plot is a silly load of wank and nothing about it remotely hooks you into what’s going on. Christopher Lloyd seems completely lost as the villain (one of the reasons I took I am Not a Serial Killer off the list is because of his excellent performance). It’s such a drab, poorly made movie that tries something clever but fails spectacularly.
18. Fifty Shades of Black
From a movie that tried to be clever to one that clearly didn’t. 50 Shades of Grey is not a hard movie to satirise. Hell, if you watch the movie yourself, as an audience member, you can come up with an entire script to take the piss out of this thing. How is it, then, that Marlon Wayans utterly, utterly failed to make a decent parody of it?! Fifty Shades of Black is just an insulting, offensive, degrading, stupid shitpile of a film. The amount of abuse the female lead gets in this film is jaw dropping, none of the jokes even remotely hit their marks, and it misses so many golden opportunities to make fun of things rife for it in the source material. How can you fuck up the contract scene-that was nearly a parody on its own?! Also, holy shit does it drag on! Did we really need the coda at the end-I know it likely won’t get a sequel, but an extra ten minutes of Marlon Wayans failing to be funny is just too goddamn much! Want something funny? Get a copy of the original film and just riff on that. Forget this joyless, clueless parody of material so ripe for the taking.
17. Friend Request
So I may have been too hard on Unfriended. Actually no, they’re both shit, at least the characters aren’t anywhere near as annoying here, it just doesn’t have a fun gimmick to fall back on.
Friend Request is another technophobic horror film that doesn’t seem to understand what exactly it’s trying to make the audience afraid of, although this one is more focused on stalking than it is cyberbullying. Until they get bored with that and drop it 2/3rds of the way in. Seriously, it has one of the weirdest shifts in focus I’ve ever seen. I was hoping it would at least be hilarious, and parts of it are, but its so earnest and self-serious that it really drags the mood down in every scene. The characters, while not obnoxious, are not particularly likeable. The villain is horribly unsympathetic despite their attempts to make her so. Clichéd scares and really, really stupid technology logic abides most of the film, then they ignore the not-Facebook stuff and just straight up make it a by-the-numbers horror flick. Terribly written, unengaging and completely confused at what it wants.
16. Faith and Fidelity***
Yes, this movie is extremely low budget and not a lot of people may have heard of it. Yes, it’s also still shit. This pretentious and needlessly dragged out naturalistic drama focuses on four of the most boring people ever to be put onto celluloid, the lead being such a grating arsehole that I wanted him to choke on his own enlarged tongue from all the shite he spews. It’s a shame he’s in every scene as well. He also sleeps with his best friend’s girlfriend (he’s also married), and they have exactly zero chemistry; it’s so forced. The camera work is awful, you see the boom mic in one scene, the audio levels are particularly fucked, and I know people are going to defend it based on its microbudget, but I’ve seen films turn out way better in the exact same scenario. No money means you work around it, not make whatever shitty film you want and expect it to fly.
15. The Forest
Aoikighara, the infamous suicide forest in Japan, is rife for potential stories pertaining to horror. So they went with a really boring one instead. The forest itself just seems to be an excuse to get ‘creepy shit’ going rather than making it a more central focal point of the narrative, and that wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the story being told was any good. Natalie Dormer is a very talented and engaging actress, and I hope she gets more solid work, because she is painfully under-utilised in this. And she plays twins! The rest of the acting is just bland as hell too. Again, it’s just a really terrible horror movie with an atrocious ending and is just a huge misstep. A terrible way for a more mainstream audience to become acquainted with the terrible depths of Aokighara.
Oh, man, is THIS one gonna be controversial! Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of the classic 70s novel has been in production hell for as nearly as long as it has been released. It’s a pretty polarising film, and seeing as it’s so high (hah!) on this list you can probably tell how I feel about it. While I’ve heard it’s surprisingly faithful to the book, even down to the how-the-70s-imagined-the-future aesthetic, this is further proof that sometimes what’s written on paper doesn’t always translate well to film. This a garbled, confused, jumbled mess of a thing trying to make 20,000 different points and not satisfactorily answering any of them. None of the internal logic is fully thought out, none of the arcs reach their full apex. Ben Wheatley as a filmmaker seems to have this idea that you need to break cinematic conventions, but he’s not quite sure why (though I’ve liked a lot of his work, even Field of England which this is probably closest to, especially as both were written by his wife). I can’t deny its ambition, and the cast are pretty solid (even if they’re playing ciphers) and it is nothing to sneeze at in terms of production design (even if you never get a full grasp of the location), but this is one high rise that just keeps on toppling down on itself all the way to the bottom.
Oh God, this piece of fucking horseshit! So another thriller about mind swapping and Ryan Reynolds are high on my list, though unlike Self/Less I don’t want to completely end my life. Just partially. Kevin Costner sleepwalks through a plodding, predictable and ridiculously silly crime thriller that has a flimsy and overly complicated set up for a pretty simple crime thriller. It’s extreme levels of silliness could almost be forgiven if it wasn’t such a slog to sit through-nothing really happens, and despite the clichéd attempts to connect Costner to the family of the man whose memories he has, it fails to ring any catharsis out of the situation. Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones look particularly embarrassed to be in this stinker. Just forget it, even if they try to implant it into your head again.
12. Collateral Beauty
Will Smith has made some pretty fucking dire attempts at winning an Oscar, and this one is probably one of the more fascinating. I’ll give Collateral Beauty that it isn’t boring, unlike a lot of other films on this list. It sticks in your memory for all the wrong reasons. It’s too high brow and surprisingly well made and acted to really be so bad it’s good territory, once again all the problems fall in the narrative. Which the marketing lies in order to hide just how bizarre and tone deaf it is. Even a charitable reading of the supporting characters can only see them as immensely horrible people, with one of the most insane schemes to deal with their friend and boss’ clinical depression after his daughter died. I’m truly at a loss for words as to how to describe this-not only is the script dire, I cannot believe it got made with a cast this talented and well known. I know a paycheck’s a paycheck, but how much could you possibly be paid! It’s schmaltzy and deeply, uncomfortably cynical, one of the weirdest combinations of conflicting emotions, and it’s why this crawls into your brain and doesn’t leave.
11. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
So. Zac Efron needs to fire his agent. He was in a lot of embarrassing comedies in 2016, and this was particular low point, as he was one of the main focuses of it. Based on a real life Craiglist ad (about, judging by this film, two of the most insufferable assclowns that ever lived), this is yet another try-hard ridiculously unlikable comedy that fills the gamut with whatever lazy jokes the writer wants to throw at it. The masseuse scene is one of my three worst comedy scenes of the year-and it just keeps on going! Efron and onscreen brother Adam DeVine have no chemistry, and neither do their respective ladies Anna Kendrick and Audrey Plaza with them (they seem to want to fuck each other more than these assholes!). There’s no real flow or cohesive narrative outside of maybe Efron growing up a tad-stuff just…happens. Which would be fine if this film were funny. You could get away with minimal plotting like with Animal House, but Animal House, sir, you are not! A pathetically insufferable and laugh free 98 minutes, spare yourself like these guys should have spared their families by not RSVP-ing.
* More discussion on Suicide Squad here
** More discussion on 31 in this Horrorthon podcast (Intro + Tues/Thurs)
***More discussion on Faith and Fidelity in this IndieCork list
Read my Best of list (36-11) here.
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