2016 was a great year for some terrific films. It was hard to whittle down my list to the few select ones that stood out. I ran over on my list, to be honest. No worries. You can’t go wrong with any on my list. Then comes this list. The worst, the most pain inducing crap that made me squirm in my seat and long for a tooth drilling. As I have said in the past when I do this list, I take no pleasure in dumping on these films. I take no pride in trashing someone else’s work. Even bad films take a lot of work to get them completed and to the big screen. So this is nothing personal, but these films sucked, to be honest, but our time and money are also very important, too. These films are a waste of both for us. So here we go.
10) Antibirth is an ambitious film starring Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny as two drug-addled friends who spend their days shuffling from their jobs (that is if they even show up) to various drug dens in order to stay as high as they can. When Lou (Lyonne) gets a bad batch of drugs, her health starts to deteriorate and she starts having visions that she may or may not be pregnant. I was pleased to see Lyonne back on the big screen. I had heard she was having serious health problems, so to see her working again was nice. I also was overjoyed to see Meg Tilly make a return to acting, as well. It is too bad they are stuck in a film that is slow and dreary. The acting is sufficient, but the script is creaky and unfocused. If that is not bad enough, throw in some headache inducing visual effects that are supposed to be visions Lou is having, and you have Antibirth.
9)The Purge: Election Year is the third and with any luck, the last of this dumb series. If you have seen any of these one-note films, you know what is coming. America has now enacted a one-night-a-year, government approved, free for all where any crime goes. Murder, rape, arson..take your pick. It is all legal for one night; Purge Night. Only the second film in this series is any good. It actually made an attempt to comment on society and violence. Purge Night: Election Year reverts back to idiocy with a plot that makes no sense, poor acting and a script that has nothing to say. Only Frank Grillo escapes this mess without embarrassing himself and Nathan Whitehead’s dependably ominous score is worth purchasing. Other than that, skip this one.
8) Now You See Me 2 is the sequel to the 2013 surprise hit film Now You See Me. The cast returns, less Isla Fisher, who was pregnant when they were shooting numero dos. Smart lady. Now, I was not the biggest fan of the original. It was decent, but it is definitely a one-and-done film. No one was clamoring for a sequel and even less were requesting a film so ridiculous and preposterous in its plot, that I am curious how the makers or at least the studio ever signed off on this. The film is so far-fetched that I did not believe a second of it. Only Daniel Radcliffe impressed me as the main bad guy but the rest of this film is a bunch of hodge-podge that lost me after about twenty minutes. I still had another 109 minutes to go.
7) Criminal is another one of these mind swapping action films that I thought we were done with. No such luck. The film stars Kevin Costner as violent criminal Jerico Stewart, whose brain is pumped with the brain fluid from a dead government agent named Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds). Don’t worry, I have ruined nothing in telling you this. In fact, I have saved you some real pain. In order for anyone to stay connected to Jerico becoming rehabilitated as a character, he has to try to wade through Pope’s memories in order to find who killed him and why. The problem is Jerico does not seem to care to start over. In the first few scenes, Jerico kills an innocent man for no reason, so he lost me right there. The rest of the film is a groan inducing mess that also features Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman and Jordi Molla playing another in a long list of boring and uninteresting bad guys. The writing is atrocious, the acting is subpar and Ariel Vromen’s direction is uninspired.
6) Term Life stars Vince Vaughn as a low-level criminal who scopes out places to rob, plans it out and sells it to those who will carry out the job. When one job goes bad, Nick (Vaughn) goes on the run with his estranged daughter, Cate (Hailee Steinfeld). Predictable and cliched there is not one moment that felt real or honest. Directed by Ralphie himself (A Christmas Story), Peter Billingsley, Term Life was marketed as a comedy, action, road trip film. The problem is Term Life is not funny. The action is generic and gee, I wonder if they will mend fences and become a loving father and daughter by the end of the picture?
5) I Am Wrath stars a very troubled John Travolta, whose career seems to be sinking, once again. Other than his award nominated performance in the TV series The People Vs. O. J. Simpson: An American Crime Story, Travolta’s recent films reads like a list of accidents. You can add I Am Wrath to that list. As is the case with Term Life, I Am Wrath is assembly line filmmaking from start to finish. He is an ex-government agent (retired, of course) whose wife is brutally murdered at an airport parking garage. Seeking revenge Stanley (Travolta) must battle corrupt cops and an endless array of killers while he cracks jokes with his partner, Dennis (Christopher Meloni). Horrible writing and lackluster direction make I Am Wrath a thoroughly disappointing film in a long list of disappointing films with Travolta in the lead.
4) Keeping Up With the Joneses had such potential with its material and a cast that could pull it off. Jason Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play a suburban couple who begin to suspect that their new attractive neighbors, Tim (John Hamm) and Gal Gadot (Natalie) are not who they say they are. Gee, I wonder if their suspicions are correct. This film is also another one from the assembly line of Hollywood. Trite and hackneyed from start to finish, Keeping Up With the Joneses is not funny. The action is silly and casting Patton Oswald as the main villain is dumbfounding. Zach Galifiniakis is quickly becoming the new Adam Sandler.
3) Gods of Egypt arrived in theaters and was supremely trounced by everyone and with good reason. Director Alex Proyas rather than just keep his mouth shut and let this film die quietly, took to the internet to trash everyone who hated this effect-laden crap. Ya see WE were the problem, not this overstuffed turkey. HUH?! Alex, we call it like we see it, my friend. Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau do their best but disappear beneath shoddy effects, a wretched script and a story a five year old could come up with. When you have the writing team for such “classics” like Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter, you know you are in trouble. There is a reason this film was trashed, Mr. Proyas. If you want to see what a fine director like Alex Proyas can do then watch the original The Crow and Dark City and save yourself from this one.
2) Mr. Right stars Sam Rockwell as a hit-man named Francis who has a crisis of conscience. He starts to regret his work and seeks only to settle down with the right woman. Where else would you go to meet a nice, young lady except the local gas station in the condom aisle. That is the high point for Mr. Right. Anna Kendrick and Rockwell try to elevate this tired material but to no avail. Mr. Right is a misfire almost from the start and I say this as a huge fan of Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick. No one could make Max Landis’ script work. It is just not funny. Paco Cabezas’s direction lack pacing and energy. Mr. Right is smarmy, annoying and not nearly as cute or clever as it thinks it is. This film was finished in 2015 but never secured a release until April of 2016. I can see why.
1) High-Rise is based on the novel by J. G. Ballard who wrote Empire of the Sun (one of my favorite Steven Spielberg films from 1987). I say this because Empire of the Sun was a glorious achievement as a book and as a movie. So as I settled in for High-Rise, I quickly realized that this film is a far cry from the hopefulness that Empire of the Sun left me with. A REALLY far cry, believe me. High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as a new resident to an exclusive high-rise for the rich and powerful. Life for the residents careens out of control when the building’s power goes out. What could have been a satire or darkly observant drama gives way to shallow characters, debauchery, lasciviousness, abusive to women and cruelty to animals. Nothing makes sense and if there is a meaning beneath this garbage, I could not have cared less. High-Rise is a filthy, mean-spirited and nasty lump of crap.
Dishonorable Mentions are films that were bad but not bad enough for me to tear into them like I did with these “gems” above. Not altogether awful but sorely lacking in entertainment value.
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice – Another effects-heavy superhero film that suffocates under the production values and all of the CGI. This was probably one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2016 and it landed with a resounding thud. Overly long, dreary and uninvolving, Batman Vs. Superman is another dud from DC comics. They are getting better, but not because of this one. Less Ben Affleck’s performance, Jeremy Irons brief appearance as Alfred and Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score, Batman Vs. Superman is a day late and quite a few dollars short of its enormous budget. Remember this was supposed to be the kickoff of a new era of superhero films from DC that were going to rival Marvel. Well, let’s look at that. Marvel gave us Deadpool and DC gifted us with this film. The winner of these two, I will let you decide.
Ghostbusters features a terrific cast with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the new busters of ghosts with Paul Feig directing and co-writing the script with Katie Dippold. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, frankly everything. This film was not nearly as bad as people thought it was going to be, but considering the bar was already low, that is not saying much. The cast tries and there are a few laughs, mostly from Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth (who knew he could be this funny) who both steal the show, but overall this is a film that really did not need to be remade. The original cast have cameos in one form or another, but not as their alter-egos. Just throwaway scenes as different characters that do not make much sense past being honoring a contractual obligation. The visuals and Theodore Shapiro’s score are decent, but overall this is another remake that no one was asking for, but we got it, anyway. This was supposed to be a reboot but it performed so badly at the box office that the other subsequent films have been placed on hold, indefinitely. Good news.
Independence Day: Resurgence decided to rear its ugly head in 2016, twenty years after their initial beat-down in 1996 in which a drunken crop dusting pilot saved the day. Now the aliens have returned for a little payback. This time their ships are even bigger and the situation is all the more dire. The world has put aside all differences and all nations are living in peace and harmony. Except for the warlords in Africa in the beginning of this film who apparently did not get the memo. If everyone is living peacefully, why are there still warlords? Why is Jeff Goldblum trying to negotiate with them? Nothing makes sense in this film but for some reason, I reveled in this film’s atrociousness. Most everyone else really eviscerated Independence Day: Resurgence and with good reason. It deserved it. I found the campiness and cheese factor to be enough to get through it, however. Make no mistake, though, this is not a good film, by any stretch.
Keanu stars the comic duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as friends who set out to find the adorable kitty, Keanu. Keanu was left on the doorstep of Rell (Jordan Peele) and abandoned. Rell having just been dumped by his girlfriend, instantly bonds with his new feline friend but when drug dealers kidnap Keanu, Rell and Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) pretend they are drug dealers to get Keanu back. There are a couple of moments in which I chuckled but, overall this film was overly praised and it really is not a good film. Pat, predictable and enforcing stereotypes of the different races, this is an equal opportunity offender. No one escapes being lampooned, but not much of it is fresh or even original. The use of the N-word throughout this film really got under my skin. It is not funny no matter who says it and the more this film uses it, the less funny it becomes. These are a talented duo who could use a much better vehicle to showcase their talents. Keanu is not the one, although the kitty is darn cute.
Arrival is one of the most heavily praised films of 2016 and is in fact, up for all kinds of awards. I can feel the hate mail coming, but I put this on the list because I left the theater underwhelmed. Only Amy Adams drives this film. Quite simply put, she SHOULD have been nominated for Best Actress. The rest of this film is slow, plodding and uncompelling. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker simply go through the motions and don’t add much to the story about aliens who have arrived on Earth and need someone who can bridge the language gap. Linguistic professor Banks (Adams) is called in for her expertise. She is a grieving mother and Adams does a terrific job as a mother who has lost her child. Her performance alone is quietly moving and understandably somber. I believed she was in pain, but she still maintains her strength and is remarkably intelligent. It wasn’t that Arrival was without action and was intended as a more cerebral film. It was just that the film failed to move me, with the exception of Amy Adams. She is so good that the story and supporting characters are left in the dust. She has no one backing her up, so to speak. That was my issue for this film. It came across as hollow and empty when compared to Amy Adams and her performance. If you want a truly great film that tackles issues of religious faith, morality and humanity’s place in the universe then 1997’s Contact is your movie. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodi Foster as a scientist brought in to decipher and alien communication, Contact was everything that Arrival is not.
So there you have it. With this list 2016 is no officially done. Thankfully so, but more dreck is on the way. Thank you again to all of you for checking us out and sticking with the Movie Slackers. We will keep the reviews coming.