Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mike's Musings: Bottom 10 of 2015

My dad asked me tonight why I should be so negative as to compile a list of the worst films of the year.  I mean, who would want to read it?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.  Each year I've done it they've earned a lot of hits.  Plus every other film critic does it, so why not me (and if you use that jumping off a bridge analogy that everyone's mom did, you do not have permission to read my reviews ever again).

There were some definite stinkers this year, and I had more than enough choices for a Bottom 10 list, but on average it wasn't as painful as in previous years (for example, there are no movies that earned a 0/4).  That said, the movies on this list are still really bad.

10.  Hot Pursuit.  I dislike the term "chick flick" because a good movie is a good movie regardless of who it's aimed at.  However, if there is a movie that fits that descriptor, it's "Hot Pursuit."  And it gives all chick movies a bad name.  The humor is trite, the plot is dull, and the characters, with one exception are boring and/or irritating.  The exception is Randy, the local played by Robert Kazinsky.  He's appealing, but not on-screen enough to save this movie from appearing on this list.

9.  Seventh Son.  This is what happens when broadening the appeal of the movie becomes all-important.  There are no characters.  There's no plot.  Just special effects, and considering the cost of the movie ($95 million), they're pretty cheesy.  It's all noise for the texting, ADD-afflicted teens.  Not even the scenery chewing of Julianne Moore, which she's never gotten to do before, could save it.  Thankfully, it bombed at the box office, so we won't be seeing any sequels.

8.  Southpaw.  I don't have anything against grim movies in general.  Many great movies are incredibly depressing ("American Sniper," "Lilya 4-Ever," "Saving Private Ryan," and many, many others).  However, they earned their emotions with strong writing, directing and acting.  "Southpaw" makes the fatal mistake that if its grim enough, we won't notice its flaws.  Problem is, we do.  The characters are flat, the direction is pedestrian, and some nice performances can't save it from sinking like a dead weight.

7.  Focus.  Will Smith has had an interesting year.  He has taken a break from special effects behemoths and tried to flex his acting muscles.  The results are mixed.  He has given one of the year's best performances in "Concussion" and one of the worst in "Focus."  It's unfair to lay the blame at his feet since it's mainly because he's so miscast, but he's the film's biggest problem.

6.  Captive.  There's no reason why this Christian film couldn't have reached its target audience and spoken to the multiplex crowd at the same time.  After all, what could be more tense than having to stay alive with a murderer in your apartment while struggling to maintain your sobriety?  However, the film plays it far too safe.  The writing and directing are so lacking that there's little that an actress like Kate Mara can do.  That it essentially contains an advertisement for Rick Warren is rather obligatory, but considering what comes before it, it only adds salt to the wound.

5.  The Lazarus Effect.  Movies made on autopilot never work.  But when you start there and continue to fumble the ball at every turn, the result is downright ugly.  There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the premise.  In fact, done right it could have been a seriously creepy, and provocative, movie.  But the goal here is simply to make a quick and easy buck, and it's painfully obvious.  Unfortunately, it's the audience that suffers.

4.  It Follows.  Everyone seemed to love this movie.  I hated it.  I'll give it points for trying to be different, but there's no denying that this is a colossal misfire.  There is a fine line between reflecting reality and mimicking it.  "Boyhood" understood that.  "It Follows" does not, and as a result feels like something Wes Anderson would make if he ever tried to make a horror movie (if his "dramedies" weren't already horrifying enough).

3.  Dragonball Z: Resurrection "F".  I was debating whether or not this movie applies since it was released as a special event.  But iMDb included as a 2015 release and it was released on DVD and Blu Ray.  Nuff said.  Not only is "Dragonball Z: Resurrection" insufferably irritating and trite, it's downright offensive.  It offends me as a film lover to see the form violated so crassly.  It offends me because it gives an entire genre a bad name, and will turn away people from seeing good anime like "Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke" (anything by Miyazaki, really), "Grave of the Fireflies," or "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie."  But above all, it offends me because it charged me more than the usual price for a ticket and robbed me of 93 minutes of my life (plus the intro) that I will never get back.

2.  Blackhat.  That this movie came from the mind and skill of the man who made "Heat," one of the best crime thrillers ever made, is nothing short of shocking.  It's horribly acted, almost totally incoherent and an all-around bore.  The only thing that saves it is the action scenes, which, as is the case with Michael Mann's work, are realistically staged.  But that's it.  It's equally tragic because it could have been so great.

Drumroll please...

1.  Child 44.  It's the only movie that got less than 1/4.  And for good reason.  This movie sucks.  It's gritty and violent, yes, which I am thankful for (no PG-13 here).  It also makes no sense, wastes a cast of excellent actors (if they aren't downright awful, they're slumming for a paycheck), and never wants to end.  If you're looking for a good serial killer movie, I can recommend some.  But only if you promise to avoid this monstrosity like everyone else.

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