Having been irreparably wounded by aggressively poor cinema (the Hobbits) on multiple occasions in the last few years, I find that I’ve developed a defence mechanism: going to less films. To be more exact, not going to any films that look bad from the trailers, sneak preview clips, or maybe just the poster – see Daddy’s Home or The Ridiculous Six for current examples. Ergo, no Ant Mans, Avengerers, Hunger Games, Martians, Terminiator Geniusiosys, or F4ntastic A’s are to be found here, though they definitely would be had I gone to see them.
From what I gather, F4ntastic actually deserves multiple entries. Its characters managed to crack interdimensional travel over a few beers, so placing twice on this list wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. It was a scorching loss for the studios and was clobbered critically as well ; director Josh Trank’s career is now Dr-Doomed, and he probably just wants to go invisible woman right about now. The worsening of those puns was on purpose.
10. The Green Inferno
Why? Eli Roth hates university Safe Spaces so made a movie about a bunch of liberal white middle-class gender-denying campus eco-campaigners going into the Amazon (rainforest of the Amazonian region, not the online department superstore) and then being captured, raped, ripped apart, and eaten by savages in the same manner seen in his favourite movie of all time, Cannibal Holocaust. The film is as juvenile as that description sounds. Simplistic, unfunny, and generally pretty distasteful.
Worst Moment: The radical humanist students hold up their smart phones and scream about ‘the whole world watching’ to a privatised armed militia overseeing illegal deforestation, who actually listen. Some sloppy editing later, they celebrate their victory by browsing Twitter and giggling. It’s Kony 2012 all over again.
Why? Not Shakespearean enough, basically. Shakespeare needs a certain amount of levity to counter balance the depraved depths that are sank to by the main players. This adaptation was grim, grim, grim. And not in a commendable way. Not in a, “Kudos for sticking to their vision” kind of way, but more, “What an uninspired production. That one mountain in Skye gave the best performance”. One battle scene was impressive but that rested on the cinematography alone, which was a marvel and the only part of the film worth mentioning.
Worst Moment: Marion Cotillard’s prayer soliloquy as Lady Macbeth. Everyone can agree that she’s a fine actress, but her delivery of the Bard’s words was unnatural and unacceptable. As she yelled away it became very apparent that everyone was watching a miscast popular French actress kneeling in a cold shed in Scotland yelling words she didn’t understand at a prop altar all because the director couldn’t see past his love of her past body of work to realise that she wasn’t right for the part.
Why? Nothing new worth nothing, and nothing old resolved. A nothing Bond entry. Skyfall was excellent and rescued James Bond from a downwards spiral into homogenous wannabe Bourne claptrap, but Spectre has put it right back on track. The charm is gone. The music has gone. The Bond has gone. Every homage to the old school cool of the Connery and Moore years gets you pining to go home and watch those instead, have a real Alan Partridge-style marathon shootalong session of it. Mission: Impossible 5 Rogue Nation is a much better movie, has a superior plot, a more sinister villain in Sean Harris and, although its evil corporation ‘the Syndicate’ was just as vague as Spectre’s, it at least posed some degree of legitimate threat – and was not ridiculously easily dispatched with a single well-placed bullet. As if Bond could even place a bullet, with the amount he drinks. He’s a disgrace to Her Majesty’s Service, that man.
Worst Moment: Monica Bellucci getting built up as a formidable female adversary, but then being taken advantage of while grieving by the lecherous Bond, who chucks her aside, never to be mentioned again, once he squeezes some top secret plot progressing information out of her and drinks all her expensive cognac.
7. Mr Holmes
Why? This should not have been a film, and that’s the bottom line. A two or three part BBC mini-series of hour long episodes would have been so much more appropriate. Anyone accustomed to Sherlock Holmes books or films will be sorely disappointed by this meandering tea time television yawnathon. There are so many sub-plots, and each one is made out so as to be important and critical to your understanding of the rest of the film – but nothing ties together at all. There’s no connective tissue, no puzzle to be solved. It’s a film about old age and the crumbling mental faculties that most experience as they get on in life, with the Conan Doyle Icon plastered on top to get bums on seats. Ian McKellen both looks and acts the part of the retired, near-ancient detective, yet the actual story does not match up to the expectations of the character. It’s homey, not Holmes.
Worst Moment: Sherlock goes all the way to Japan to have some special tea made from rarest herbs, so that the writers can shoehorn in some Hiroshima bombing subtext to make a statement about the scary new world, a world which Holmes is not prepared for. But it has no relevance whatsoever and is utterly misleading. Really, it goes nowhere. It takes up half an hour of the film and has nothing to do with the rest of the story, which is set in England, and for a while the next day I thought I had fallen asleep and dreamt it.
6. Black Mass
Why? Whereas I managed to stay awake in Mr Holmes, I was unable to remain conscious for the duration of this Johny Depp Oscar fishing trip. Black Mass stars an unrecognisable Captain Jack Sparrow pretending to be Jack Nicholson’s character from the Departed who was based off the real world Bostonian gangland boss and former FBI most wanted criminal Whitey Bulger. The best scene was in the reveal trailer, though by the time you get to it in the film it’s lost it punch, and any given scene from either Goodfellas or The Departed is far superior. Does anyone remember Ice Man from a few years back? No? Thought not. Well, in a few years from now I will be able to write, in another blog criticism of another forgettable crime drama starring a pedigree lead actor but with nothing else to show for it, “Does anyone remember Black Mass from a few years back”? And no one will. Even that name. How mediocre.
Worst Moment: Whichever scene it was that made me fall asleep.
Why? Pre-production press of this historical drama about Kray twins Ronnie and Reggie had it sitting pretty as one of the most anticipated British films this year. Tom Hardy is a powerful actor, he’s on top of the world, and the idea of his injecting twice as much of his intense persona into one film was cause for much excitement. Would it be too much? Not so, it turned out. In fairness, he was not bad, but the script was dire and so was the glossy, hollow tone of the filmmaking. Glitzy razzmatazz nightclubs and overlong tracking shots through a succession of East End alleyways and smoky boozers are not enough to capture the energy of the 60s criminal underworld. There’s not much attention to detail and the characters not played by Hardy (are there…any?) do not have much, well, character to them. Nutjob Ronnie Kray’s many temper tantrums make for uncomfortable viewing, but not in the menacing way of Hardy’s previous psycho role in Bronson. The bulbous nose, outward turning lips and jutting chin are something out of a Monty Python Gumby Sketch. “I…am…the…shouting…specialist!”
Worst Moment: Truly, there were so many that it is very hard to select just one. The worst of all though, the one that had me involuntarily crush a metal drink can, was the astoundingly pretentious narrative twist which saw leading lady Emily Browning (playing Emily Shea, Reggie’s wife) continue to speak in voiceover to the audience in a posthumous capacity . Post-mortem narration hasn’t been cool since the mid-90s, and it cripples the film’s already weak ending.
4. True Story
Why? Made-in-a fortnight CBS thriller vibes all over this one, but with a set of unexplainably well known and expensive actors, including James Franco and Felicity Jones. Based on, yes, a series of real life events, True Story stars James Franco as a one-time spree murderer and expert manipulator, across from his Frat Pack brethren Jonah Hill as a disgraced ex-NYT journalist who is impersonated by the killer and who then becomes entangled in the legal proceedings following his arrest. Hill’s journalist becomes ever more invested in killer Christian Longo’s story, even writing a book about their relationship, but at the end finds out he’s been mugged off beautifully by an obviously pathological liar. James Franco has many pet projects – it’s more of a zoo, if reports of his staggering workaholicism are true – but the appeal of this one is unclear. Maybe Franco and Hill got high and though it’d be amusing, when met with disbelief while describing the actual documented events that inspired the film project they were working on, to reply: “True Story, bro.”.
Worst Moment: Jonah Hill’s fraudulent investigative journalist gets caught making false claims in a feature article (meaning that it was not a true story after all!) and he fumbles about mumbling incomplete sentences for two whole minutes before being unceremoniously dismissed. We have to watch him meticulously and wordlessly collect his desk items one by one and put them in a box, then walk awkwardly out of a room with his arms full of staplers.
Why? A constant insistence that your story is of grave importance and is to be taken super-duper seriously at all times is such a turn off. There’s not one uplifting moment in this dreary, faux-gritty underdog movie. As boxing movies go it has a typical character arc, but without any unique element to set it apart, Southpaw falls through the cracks of the genre’s other offerings. Rocky was epic and inspiring, Raging Bull was brutal and stunning, Rocky III was hilarious – IV even more so – and even martial arts movies such as Warrior had an emotional heartbeat and a couple of laughs. Jake Gyllenhaal’s pro boxer is just a shredded selfish thug who listens to Eminem shout ‘I am phenomenal’ into a mic, and then throws hissy fits when that doesn’t turn him into a phenomenon. Forrest Whitaker ‘s trainer/mentor character is a walking, talking, one-eyed stereotype and 50 Cent is in the film too, so, that’s the sort of film it is. One with 50 Cent in.
Worst Moment: Multiple haymaker cringes are unleashed on the sentient viewer sitting through Southpaw. The most stupidly executed part of the whole film is Jake Gyllenhaal’s wife getting shot in the stomach during a sporting awards ceremony to create the incentive for the advancement of his boxing career. The way the murder plays out is comical. Gyllenhaal may as well have become Batman, for all the realism on display.
2. Jurassic World
Why? This is not a film, this is a product. Was it actually co-written by the CEOs of Pepsi, Sony, Mercedes, and Starbucks? The level of product placement, my friends, is too goddamned high! It is focus-group consumerist orientated trumpet blowing fuckerage that preys on the whole adult world’s senses of nostalgia and belief in human decency, only to throw those sentiments back into their faces after mixing them with concentrated acid. Then there’s the general plasticky feel of each and every scene, the far from convincing VFX, two of the most annoying child actors to ever disgrace the silver screen (we’re talking worse than the punks in The Happening), and a plot as cookie cutter formulaic as the playdo pieces pushed through the Jurassic World tie-in dinosaur-shaping playdo moulds.
Jurassic World is the third highest grossing movie of all time, which is a disgrace, but can partly be explained by the outrageous cost of the 3D tickets and the growing overall human population. There’s a three minute montage parody with 2,900 views called Jurassic Memes that is more entertaining than this film, and you’d do well to watch it over this brontosaurus-sized turd directed by corporation puppet whore Colin Trevorrow, whose next project is Star Wars episode IX aka The Guaranteed Worst Chapter in the New Trilogy. For shame.
Worst Moment: Chris Pratt polishing off a cool drinky drink of glass bottled Coca Cola, then glancing admiringly at said bottle. Not Diet, but full fat Coke. Because real men aren’t afraid of a few calories. Drink Coke. Drink it. Drink iiiiiiitt.
1. A Walk in the Woods
Why? Garbage. Tourist-board funded garbage. Masquerading as a well-meaning adaptation of a beloved Bill Bryson travel book of the same name, A Walk in the Woods takes Nick Nolte and Robert Redford on a brutal journey fraught with peril, friendship-altering moments and self re-discoveries all along the way. Some of the worst and most tired gags known to man are in here. People falling into water when trying to safely traverse a river is just not funny. Especially so when they don’t drown. The screenplay is as dumbed down as they come, obviously having gone through many heavy edits and multiple writers, and as far as one can tell there isn’t much correlation between the dramatic events of the film and the real events in Bryson’s book. The Appalachian trail, the backdrop for every scene, is commented upon favourably and regularly – while it is breathtaking, the real reason is that the film was largely funded by the Georgian tourist board. The whole film is an advert,as the credits reveal.
Lines like – “Oh gee, what a nice bed and breakfast. Sure am glad we came here to INSERT TOWN NAME in Georgia, what with all these lovely accommodating people in the tourist industry”, or, “Woah, just take a look at that view for a few more seconds. How incredible, and how lucky we are, to be here in this majestic place of nature right here on the Georgian Appalachian trail, which has guided tours that can be tailored to hikers of all ages and abilities” – would not feel too out of place. It’s a borderline promotional piece, but legitimised with Bill Bryson’s name slapped onto it. He’s not had much to say about the film, favourably or no, but his public silence hints at his private disdain for what has been done with one of his most popular works.
Worst Moment: Nick Nolte declares himself a ‘pantyologist’ in an attempt to seduce a triple-plus-sized Laundromat maiden. Not that he isn’t overweight too. Just, they make a more marked point of her being fat. It’s part of the humour, you see.
Here is a video of the Bunk Bed ‘gag’ from A Walk in the Woods:
I know. That was tough wasn’t it? You got through it unscarred though. But, alas, it was just a warmup for the horrors to come. Dare you watch this next clip? Dare you ruin Nick Nolte’s career for yourself, and cinema as a whole, forever?
Jolly Christday and a Minced New Year, everybody!