As one year of listening to middle-aged leave-voting cinema goers say “They gave the whole bloody film away in the trailer!” loud enough for the whole room to hear comes to an end, another one lies just around the corner. Isn’t life grand? Could you lend me a grand, actually? I might start a Patreon page and all – £10 pp (per pun) minimum donation, please.What a year it has been though. All that damned fake news, and the like. Of course, no annual roundup is complete without discussing the works of Nic Cage.
Nicolas Coppola Cage starred in six motion pictures in the year 2016, only two of which I had heard of before researching that very same fact. Of those two only one, Snowden, had mainstream cinematic release and, if appearances are anything to go by (which for my own sake I hope they are not), the remainder went straight to Video on Demand. It is there that they shall remain, festering for eternity, on rare occasions being plucked over, as are carrion by vultures, when gaggles of drunken friends huddle together for a Nic Cage marathon (or #CageRage) during which they will mock the Oscar-winning stage/screen actor’s gregarious and oft misunderstood performing style.
None of them could match Cage’s exquisite range of talents nor beat him in a physical fight so they obviously do all this from the comfort of their homes, as indeed do the practitioners of the infamous ‘Van Damme Grand Slamme’ sessions (lasting up to three days), who were the forerunners to the Cage Rage. In fact they came even before ‘Stallone and a Calzone’ action movie pizza nights were popularised in the mid 90s. That’s the mid 1990s. We are in the mid 10s now but not the 1910s, despite what you may have noticed as a skyrocketing in KKK enlistment.
This digression has meant nothing. For further information on the topic, see footnote #1.
10. Knock Knock – Eli Roth
Why? First of all a big round of applause to Eli Roth, coming straight back in at number ten, just like on last year’s list. What a guy! In Roth’s latest rehash of the 70s exploitation sleaze genre, Keanu Reeves plays a genteel family man left guarding the fort when his family go on holiday. While the cat’s away the mouse will play, right? Anyway, two #jailbait teens show up to his door to seduce him – which they do – and break his stuff – which they do – and destroy his marriage – which they do. There’s some kind of message in there like “All men are total scumbags just like me, Eli Roth, and the nice ones who are architects and appreciate vinyl are just pretending” but it’s really garbled.
Worst Bit: Eli Roth’s wife playing the apparently irresistible temptress whom no man could possibly shun, making Keanu Reeves’ happily married father drop everything he cares about, plus his pants, in mere minutes. She has the role of ringleader and is the main antagonist of this terrible, cynical little film, which causes it to drag still further since she’s a pretty bad actor.
9. Triple 9 – John Hillcoat
Why? Triple 9 wasn’t bad for lack of trying. Quite the opposite, it tripped itself up because it tried so very, very hard. Writer Matt Cook and director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Road) wanted to make a crime thriller extravaganza to rival the very best of the genre… by incorporating every single plot point and trope of the entire genre. There were good cops, crooked cops, drug addict informants, bank heists, Mexican gangbangers, double-crosses, triple-crosses, disaffected detectives, hostage situations, Russian mobsters… the list goes on. Really, Triple 9 is a spliced up Frankenstein’s Monster of other films it wants to emulate, and has no merits to speak of beyond a standout performance from Kate Winslet, playing against type as a vile mob boss.
Worst Bit: Loco ‘ese’ Casey Affleck ‘kicks it’ with the heavily tatted Latino gang members who don’t trust the other cops because the other cops are talking ‘cray-zee’ to them and they are ‘insane in the membrane’ so they say ‘puta’ until Casey talks ‘ le Espanol’ proficiently enough that they agree to go back to the hood with their hydraulic vehicles.
8. High Rise – Ben Wheatley
Why? The first flop of Ben Wheatley’s career so far. On its opening weekend, myself and Movie Quibble collaborator Matteo Pizzatwo were the only ones in an entire multiplex cinema actually watching High Rise. It could be that it was the bigger budget and scope of the J.G. Ballard adaptation, plus the fact that he altered his gritty kitchen sink style to a more glitzy grandiose sensibility to match the story’s themes and setting. It’s also the first time the basis of the film wasn’t conceived of and written by he and his partner Amy Jump, which may have explained why their personalities and bizzaro humour didn’t shine through as they usually do.
Worst Bit: After a slew of far from subtle anti-establishment statements, at the very end they completely let it go with an overt reference to Thatcherite Britain (complete with grotesque caricature), totally spoiling anyone’s hopes of perceiving the film’s societal commentary using their own brain while also detaching it from any sort of relevant critique of the world today.
7. The Jungle Book – Jon Favreau
Why? The world didn’t need a remake. They butchered the classic songs. For the most part the animation felt hollow and lifeless – because, in fact, it is. You can’t have one live action human surrounded by green screened creations for a full two hours without suffering a minor break from reality.
Worst Bit: Realising Andy Serkis is bringing out a different Jungle Book movie, Jungle Book: Origins, in 2017 that will get an equal lavishing of praise for its motion capture and voice work despite further tarnishing the memory of the 1967 cartoon with its savage moneygrubbing.
6. The Clan – Pablo Trapero
Why? A true story which, though fascinating, would have worked out much better if it was made into a documentary. The Puccio Clan were the ‘Argentinian Goodfellas’ who menaced the upper echelons of Beunos Aires society by kidnapping the wealthy and holding them for ransom, all in the wake of Jorge Rafael Videla’s collapsed dictatorship. The cast are fine, it’s the writing and direction that lack refinement. Unlike in Goodfellas, the song choices were seemingly random and did not fit their scenes in the least.It’s memorable subject material, handled in a forgettable way.
Worst Bit: The ‘Horrifying Crimes’ vs ‘Calm Family Home Life’ juxtaposition, usually demonstrated through montage, was most exasperating.
5. Sausage Party – Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon
Why? By way of explanation I’ve gone ahead and browsed Sausage Party’s’Plot Keywords’ on IMDb. Hopefully they give you an idea of why to avoid it.
- adult animation
- musical number
- tricked into lesbian sex
- adolescent humour
- pun (actually the puns were the only thing that made watching it worthwhile)
- bath salts the drug
Worst Bit: The bit with the musical numbers where the potatoes got tricked into a lesbian sex orgy with bath salts.
4. Eye in the Sky – Gavin Hood
Why? Eye in the Sky (which I have accidentally called Eagle Eye, that one where Shia Labeouf fights the internet, about two hundred times) is a politico-military thriller with Dr Stranglove and Catch 22 pretensions. Its frequent ill-timed attempts at In The Loop brand farce do not gel with the serious main plot involving an in-progress terrorist attack in Kenya which various intelligence services attempt to defuse using drone strike technology. Kubrick treated nuclear doomsday with an enlightened irreverence, but Eagle Eye (again!) can’t bring itself to do the same for a suicide bombing.
Worst Bit: Aaron Paul crying, frowning, whining, and being generally upset for prolonged periods of time because the film is an ‘ethical exploration’ and “that’s what you have to do to get the best supporting actor nominations”, said his agent.
3. Suicide Squad – David Ayer
Why? Not one to mince one’s words – because mince isn’t vegan – this film was a steaming piece of shit – almost entertaining, it was so shamboli! Less a movie, more a jumble of music videos made by the collective hivemind of Deviant Art, it miserably failed to be the Guardians of the Galaxy that DC so desperately needed. Suicide Squad? More like Show This Film In An Assisted Suicide Facility To Make Them Relieved They Are On Their Way Out Squad!
Worst Bit: Oscar-winning actor man Jared Leto channeling American hip hop artist and Spring Breakers source material Riff Raff while bouncing around clubs with his boys, sporting Gucci as trap music plays. A cartoonish comic book spoof of a David Ayer film… until you realise it actually is a film directed by David Ayer. Heath Ledger’s pencil disappearing glory days seem a long way off now.
2. Zoolander 2 – Ben Stiller
Why? Trading comedic situations, script writing, and sub-plots for cultural references and a gigatonne of cameos, Zoolander 2 was the worst sequel of the year and quite possibly the worst sequel to a comedy ever made. Anchorman 2 looks a work of refined comic genius in the wake of this bloated, big-budget flop. Once again, it didn’t need to be made, and we are all worse off for its existence. Except of course people that confuse the act of taking selfies with topical humour.
Worst Bit: There’s not even a… it’s just all of it, guys.
Here’s a great official clip from the motion picture 2lander
1. The Girl on the Train aka The Gone Girl With the Locomotive Tattoo – Tate Taylor
Why? The next film in the endless The [something] Girl Doing/From [Something/Somewhere] with [Someone] Who Has a [Insert Aspect of Her Appearance] series stars Emily Blunt as a homewrecked homewrecker that isn’t aware she’s in a hopelessly mediocre Hollywood adaptation of a depressingly tedious and predictable ‘thriller’ novel with a title about as drab as every single article written about 2016 being a bad year.
I have no proof, but The Girl On the Train’s producers definitely bought the rights to the book in the hopes of recreating the mainstream and critical success of Gone Girl. It’s suburban America, filled with attractive ladies who hide secrets from their husbands and do things in dismal lighting that shatter the idyll of marriage. Raunchy (kind of), dark (ish), with an unreliable narrator at the heart, which unashamedly and rather shabbily copies another film’s visual aesthetic
The marketing of The Girl On the Train was the most woeful thing of all. “What Did She See? Did She See Things?”, read one quad, as if that would be enough to incite burning curiosity in the prospective film goer, while another tube ad asked the bleary eyed commuter “What are the other people on this train thinking about? Who are they? What secrets are they hiding?”, as if taunting those on the verge of a paranoid breakdown into finally accusing the man with the brown faux leather briefcase on the 8:15 to Clapham Junction of being your genetic father and why won’t you come home I miss you so much dad why did you leave us? this is why I’m attracted to dead bodies it’s all your fault! But no. Keep it in. Keep it all in. No one suspects a thing.
A Worst Bit: Emily Blunt gets onto a train and looks out of a window and sees a house.
Another Worse Bit: She looks out of a train window on a different day, seeing a husband and wife happily taking a selfie of themselves and their daughter at the dinner table (all in high detail despite being hundreds of yards away) in a tracking shot supposed to mimic her perspective from the window, only going at less than a tenth of the speed that we know the train is actually moving. So totally bogus, man!
Worse Even Than That: Emily Blunt gets drunk, browses Facebook.
Worse still: A sober Emily Blunt has flashbacks to life events she couldn’t possibly have forgotten unless she was in a drunken blackout but which, if she had been in a drunken blackout, she couldn’t possibly have remembered at all. You can’t have your cake and drink it. Freudian slip, oops! Did I mention she drinks so her narration can’t be trusted? Yeah, it makes the film so much more edgy and exciting.
Surely it can’t get any worse?: A bad, bad man gets justly killed with a wine cork, the climax of the drama which also serves as a metaphor for her resolving her drinking problem: by killing the person that caused it in the first place, with the very tool which facilitated the negative behavioral cycle. I’ve heard of sour grapes, but this is ridiculous! What she forgot is that bottles of liquor have screwtops, as do white wines and even a lot of beers nowadays. Absolute flippin’ idiot.
Have a Very New Year and Thank You For Reading
Other fads which emerged from that era included the short-lived ‘All the Danny DeVitos with a Bowl of Doritos’; the ‘Mads Mikkelrun’, in which movie buffs chain watched every single one of Hannibal star Mads Mikkelson’s non-English language canon as they ran on treadmills; the ‘Arnold (bed)Sores-enegger'(2), which sputtered to a halt after it emerged that teenagers indulging in the craze were losing limbs to gangrene; and the ‘Christopher Dole-an Experience’ which saw thousands of twenty something Caucasian males give up their dreams of becoming serious filmmakers, quit their day jobs, and sign on for unemployment allowance, thus freeing them up to watch Mememto on an endless loop and knowing full well they were incapable of producing a movie even halfway approaching its level of pretension or preposterous degree of overestimation by the general public.
Not nearly as popular but far more tragic in consequence for its die hard (3) devotees was the ‘Chuck (out the wife and kids) Norris Way’. Beer swilling fans of the former karate world champion Mr Norris, whose collective favourite film was (and would always be) some generic 80s flick starring Chuck Norris such as Missing In Action 2: The Beginning (1985) began committing suicide in their tens of… in their tens, when their wives and children refused to return home having been unceremoniously ‘Chucked’ out so that the man of the house could go undisturbed while watching Chuck Norris fight a bear with martial artisic virtuoso in Walker, Texas Ranger.
Not to be confused with the diehard Die Hards.