Friday, 30 December 2016

The Ten Worst Movies of 2016

Well despite the many low points of this year 2016 eventually revealed itself to be an exceptionally good year for cinema if you were looking in the right places. But we are not going to talk about that today. Instead we are taking a look back at the very worst products to crawl out of the film industry over the past twelve months, the bile and slime of all that is considered good and a danger to moviegoers everywhere.

Of course, one can only stand to see so many terrible films in one year so naturally some films had to be excluded. I’m sure ‘Nine Lives’, ‘Yoga Hosers’ and ‘Norm of the North’ were all atrociously terrible, but I only have so much time on this earth and I can’t spend too much of it watching terrible films.

But despite this I still have some dishonourable mentions for films that struck that unique ground of being terrible but not worth the effort to include them here. It seems that ‘The Divergent Series’ has finally sunk itself with ‘Allegiant’ performing so poorly that the final instalment has been cancelled from its movie status and reduced to a TV Special for 2017. ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ was a headache inducing defacement of Lewis Carol’s work. Talented directors like Duncan Jones and Justin Kurzel failed the video game genre with the woeful ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Assassin’s Creed’. We were treated to some stupidly joyless thrillers film in ‘Criminal’ and ‘Inferno’. We also had the usual stupidity one could expect when your film states that it is “Produced by Michael Bay” with ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ and ‘The Purge: Election Year’. There’s also ‘Gods of Egypt’ which only stays off due to how unintentionally hilarious it is, being a film that I could actually imagine myself watching several times whenever I’m in need of a laugh. Still a biblically terrible film, but a funny one at that.

But wait there’s more, because I wanted to reserve a special spot for the year’s biggest disappointment. A film I had high hopes for, even defended in the build up to its release but ultimately rushed those dreams and has only further angered me since I first saw it. That film is ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. Following the success of ‘Days of Future Past’ one would think the franchise might finally craft a third act of a trilogy that was worth watching. But what we get instead is a film that amounts to a two hour explanation of why Professor X is bald. It is repetitive and derivative of its predecessors, hampers any potential future storytelling the franchise could have had and boasts the most generic end-of-the-world-plot a blockbuster of this nature could have. Watching Oscar Isaac stomp around in an expressionless rubber suit, portraying a villain with no singular motivation or depth of any kind may be one of the saddest things I witnessed all year. There is not one prop, location or effect in the entire film that looks remotely real. Most of the special effects consist of poorly composited green screen and CGI props that are thrown at the audience until their eyes start bleeding. The plot is jam packed with insulting contrivances, sequel baiting subplots and pandering cameos from characters who ultimately have little to zero impact on the story as a whole. It feels like it was manufactured to be a lesser copy of a weak MCU film, filled with witty banter, overly elaborate action sequences and a climactic city based battle where the world falls apart in pixels behind the characters. But all of this is just the start, now we get to the bottom ten.

10: Batman v Superman / Suicide Squad

I admit I cheated here. But out of the two terrible DCEU movies we got this year I could not pick between them and decided they each act as a nice benchmark to start the list (basically saying, let’s start here and see how low we can sink). First off, ‘Suicide Squad’ lacks any cohesive structure, resembling one long drawn out action sequence that overall contains less depth than a single frame of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. The movie is so poorly shot, coloured and lit that I wondered if Warner Bros accidentally left their camera on the sepia-tone setting. It’s clichéd, generic and uninspired in almost every aspect, putting a great cast (and Jai Courtney) to waste. This is all without mentioning its aggressively pandering soundtrack.

But none of this came as a surprise thanks to DC’s earlier offering, ‘Batman v Superman’. We have seen superhero failures of the past be intellectually insulting, creatively stunted, pretentiously self-righteous and unfaithful to their source material. Now here comes ‘Batman v Superman that manages to be all of that at once and more. Like ‘Suicide Squad’ it lacks all cohesive structure with the first two acts becoming an exercise in how many names and locations we can visit without a single establishing shot or any narrative thrust to motivate the sightseeing tour. It’s all in the name of establishing an overly convoluted and contrived plot that ultimately leads to a rage inducing anti-climax that is resolved with the word “Martha”. Character motivations and perronsalities shift rapidly from scene to scene, subplots are brought up and never resolved and the movie even gives you the benefit of seeing shoehorning in teaser trailers for upcoming instalments in the ultimate middle finger to the audience and a nightmare scenario of franchise filmmaking. Zack Snyder’s “visionary” direction amounts to recreating some comic panels with an unconvincing and visually uninspired CGI explosion. The entire production is a sheer train wreck from start to finish.

Both films are just as bad as each other and fans swarmed anyone who stated so, sending death threats to critics, starting petitions to remove any negative reviews of the films and rewarding them perfect scores on sites like IMDB before they had even been released. They took it upon themselves to tech those evil critics for doing what they are professionally paid to do and voice their opinion about a movie they recently saw, justifying themselves with accusation of corruption or the even more feeble excuse of “It’s for the fans”. The latter excuse is essentially a different way of saying “This movie is for the people who were going to love it regardless of its actual quality anyway” so I hope you can see the irrelevance of that.

9: The 5th Wave

Teen dystopian adaptations hit an all-time low here. Despite some truly horrifying entries into the genre ‘The 5th Wave’ stands as potentially the most pandering, intellectually stunted, emotionally manipulative of them all. It wanders through its plot almost aimlessly, borrowing every trope and cliché it can from every other film of this genre that has preceded it. Worst of all is that unlike ‘Allegiant’ whose box office failure tanked its entire franchise, ‘The 5th Wave’ managed to make money which likely means we have two more of these garbage fires to look forward to.

8: The Other Side of the Door

As 2016 reaches its end and many discuss the good, bad and ugly of the year gone by people seem to have overlooked ‘The Other Side of the Door’ which in itself is a crime. This terrible excuse for a horror film is jam packed with cheap jump scares, weak characterisations, offensively blatant contrivances as well as a dozen plot holes that I honestly can’t blame anyone for blocking it out of their memory. But at the same time it certainly should not go unpunished.

7: Mother’s Day

It is a shame that Gary Marshall’s last film had to be tis awful. I know some people who put aside the actual quality and enjoy the glitzy schmaltz of ‘New Year’s Eve’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’. But with ‘Mother’s Day’ Marshall crossed the line and overloaded us with so much cheap sentimentality, emotional manipulation and ludicrously contrived reasons to waste a talented cast that it’s maddeningly sickening. There is a scene in which Jack Whitehall plays a comedian who wins a stand-up competition while simultaneously looking after his infant baby. During the routine I heard plenty of laughter from the fake audience watching him in the film, I heard none from the real audience watching the film.

6: Independence Day: Resurgence

The summer that went on forever is perhaps best epitomised with this overblown and overstuffed extravaganza of soullessness. Instead of having the fun popcorn entertainment and pulsating energy of ‘Independence Day’, this sequel is a flat, overly convoluted, self-serious, humourless downpour that is the perfect countermand to any goodwill one could take away from the original. The CGI effects seek not to engage the viewer but to overwhelm them by throwing as much at the screen as it possibly can. There is so little substance to it that after watching it I felt malnourished.

5: Ben-Hur

The trend of Hollywood remakes hit an all-time low here (that seems to apply to a lot of genres this year, as well as society in general) by turning one of the most universally praised movies of all time into a diabolical cash grab. It cuts out almost 100 minutes of runtime from the original by leaving out silly things such as pacing, character development, depth, atmosphere, motivations and subtleties. This leaves only the bare bones of the story which results in an unmotivated and uninspired retelling that comes across as unintentionally hilarious. To top it all off the film panders to conservative audiences by being less politically correct than the 1958 version, cutting out homosexual undertones in favour of an extended torture porn sequence of Jesus on the cross to remind us how we are all terrible people.

4: Max Steel

I feel sorry for whoever thought this would be the next big franchise. Or at least I would if anyone working on the film actually did because I cannot accept that anyone involved in this production saw it as anything other than a cheaply made attempt to do….actually I can’t work out what this was trying to accomplish. It is too idiotically stupid to appeal to anyone over the age of five and too bland and boring to appeal to anyone under that age. Anyone who played with the original toys has long grown out of this by now and everyone else didn’t even know this film existed. Films like ‘Max Steel’ make people like me question what we are doing with our lives.

3: Collateral Beauty

A film so terrible that any attempt I made to write a full review of it descended into an angry and incomprehensible rant. With a marketing campaign so blatantly false I’m surprised no one has tried to sue the makers for false advertising (if that American woman can try to sue Nicholas Winding Refn because ‘Drive’ wasn’t an action movie I can’t see why this can get away scot-free). Who doesn’t want to see a film about a group of business executives trying to prove their boss, Will Smith is clinically insane by exploiting his grief over his dead daughter and hiring three actors to portray three abstract concepts of Love, Time and Death to interact with Will Smith so they can digitally remove the actors from security footage to make it appear as if Will Smith is talking to himself, thereby definitely proving he is insane. I think describing the plot of the film speaks for itself. The fact that it the film’s thematic conceit is barely worthy of a an induction session in class at a community college philosophy class and somehow convincing the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Naomi Harris and Keira Knightly to sign on for this crap is baffling, almost as baffling as the plot.

2: Dirty Grandpa

There have been a fair few horror films released in 2016, yet none of them were as terrifyingly disturbing as ‘Dirty Grandpa’. Incidentally that is not to be read as a criticism of said horror films. This “comedy” is mind numbingly incompetent in every single regard that I’m still struggling to envision anyone reading over this script and deciding it was anything other than something disgusting smeared across a piece of paper. This is not just a case of smart or dumb comedy, ‘Dirty Grandpa’ is so nauseatingly offensive but at the same time so infuriatingly unfunny that it’s sickening. Crude and crass humour can be funny, sometimes brilliantly so, but this film stays so far away from anything that could be considered a joke, from the mild racism and homophobia to the prolonged shot of Robert De Niro masturbating. It is a real low point for 2016, but not quite the absolute worst, which leads me onto….

1: God’s Not Dead 2

I try not to drag politics into this, but in a year where the entire world feels divided over differing beliefs it seems fitting that this piece of propaganda should end up here. A film that seems to celebrate the idea that the world is divided by race and religion, a film that endorses the idea that some people are inferior depending upon their beliefs and argues that we are currently in the middle of a war between the evil atheists and the unsung perfect yet persecuted heroes, Christians. The plot defies all logic, and is nothing more than a thin veil from which the film can scream its agenda at the audience until either the viewer or the speaker passes out from exhaustion. It’s not as blatantly aggressive as ‘God’s Not Dead’ in which the non-Christian characters either die from car collisions, undergo domestic abuse or get diagnosed with cancer. But the sequel does its best to prove that anyone who isn’t a Christian is a conniving person filled with hatred and wants to cause suffering to everyone in the world. It’s one thing to make a hypocritical piece of propaganda, but for it to be as incompetently made, as poorly written and as terribly acted as ‘God’s Not Dead 2’, then that just about clinches it. ‘God’s Not Dead 2’, the worst movie of 2016.

So that’s by rundown of the year’s worst. For those wondering I would normally have posted a list for the year’s best films as well but sadly there are still a number of films that I have yet to see including ‘La La Land’, ‘Silence’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea’. The likely scenario is that I’ll be able to see them over the course of January so I’m hoping to finalise my list within a month or less. As much as I would like to say “screw it” and just make a list including the films I’ve already seen I know how frustrating it is in a year’s time when a critic says “Here are my top ten films of 2017, by the way six of these came out and were being discussed mainly in 2016 and by now everyone is talking about a completely different set of films which I also have yet to see”. If a film was released in 2016 I intend to see it and review it in the context of 2016. As frustrating as it is I want to avoid clogging up next year’s list with a load of year-old releases, having to ignore the existence of some of my most anticipated movies of this year by not including them on my annual list and being short changed for the number of quality films on my list for this year. That’s is all then, bye.

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