Top 5 Worst Films of 2015 (That I Saw)
Upon scanning the list of films released this year for my best and worst lists (I need to remind myself every year what I’ve seen as to remember the more forgettable features), I noticed how bad of a year this was for film. I didn’t quite register it as it was happening, but I really didn’t go to the theater as often as I usually do. I’d scanned the list more, seeing titles such as Mortdecai, Jupiter Ascending, Project Almanac, and Fifty Shades of Grey. I can honestly say that I had forgotten all about these films since they came out so early in the year, yet all of them we lambasted as some of the worst cinema had to offer. You’d think we’d still be talking about them by the year’s end, but every week just brought something new to the table that overshadowed the previous disaster. I think a lot of this has to do with the few big films that turned out great (Mad Max and Star Wars) taking over much of the film conversation in 2015, with the hype for them distracting a lot of us from any other film. Hype this year pretty much covered up the crap in a way few years have. We had hype for two Marvel films, and both films turned out to be ok at best, but it didn’t matter because there was already another huge film coming out the next month we needed to talk about. So yeah, looking over the list was a somewhat grim realization. On top of that I can barely remember how bad these films were to talk about them at length, so most of my list was going to end up rambling on about what I could faintly recall. I had more films to pick from than I have in a whole, this was going to be the first year the bad list was going to be harder to narrow down than the good one. To make it bearable, I’m only going to cover five films.
Honorable mentions will be given to Fifty Shades of Grey and The Gift. While Fifty Shades of Grey was ostensibly one of the worst films I actually saw in theaters (most bad films I end up seeing in December once the vast majority are available digitally), it was pretty boring and forgettable in the end. I see it at number one on a lot of worst lists this year, and it just seems like a lot of hate over a film that didn’t feel that awful. Yet it was one of the few bad ones I actually decided to sit through so I’ll give it a nod. The Gift on the other hand was a film that got rave reviews and I just couldn’t get behind it. I thought the cinematography was pretty ugly, but I forgave that because for most of the film felt like a nice play on the late 80’s/early 90’s sleezy thriller. Then in the last 10 minutes it full on reverted into one of those films and ruined much of what worked through out. An A+ film brought down to a C-. I personally hated it as a result, but I can’t deny at least most of the film is effective as a thriller, so it’ll get a pass. Now on with the list.
It’s an ironic twist of fate that this year brought us one of the best AI films in recent memory with EX_MACHINA but also brought us one of the worst with CHAPPiE. Director Neill Blomkamp made a name for himself with the decent but not great District 9 and has made it his undying effort to prove that film was a fluke. Often labeled an auteur, CHAPPIE best expresses why that label is unfit to describe Blomkamp. Sure you can tell his films are distinctly his own, but only on the superficial level that they’re all the same movie. All of them are set in Johannesburg in an alternate not too distant future with a smattering of generic sci-fi themes other films have explored to death by this point, and they all star Sharlto Copley to boot. Copley this time stars as the titular AI endowed robot. The setting is a crime ridden Johannesburg (big shock for a Blomkamp movie) and we explore the fears of artificial intelligence, just like every other movie that covers the subject. EX_MACHINA worked so well because it took the material in a new direction, discussing not if we should fear it, but why even create AI in the first place and what morals are involved in doing so. CHAPPiE breaks no new ground, yet somehow it even manages to screw up being a run of the mil AI action flick.
The AI material isn’t explored as much as it should be because there are so many plots crammed into this film you wonder if Blomkamp was trying to make up for having nothing new to say. You have Dev Patel’s rivalry with Hugh Jackman, you have Patel striving to set Chappie on the path od good, you have Die Antwoord training Chappie to be a bank robber, and you have Chappie’s own plot about discovering what it means to be a living robot. The film has at least three villains and one of those villains is the hero of a different plot thread. The worst part is you never focus on any of these plots long enough to make them work. To get around this fact, the film paints everything in broad strokes like a cartoon so you get the idea of what you’re supposed to feel. Hugh Jackman is obviously the villains since he’s Ex-Military and just wants to make weapons, and Dev Patel is the hero because he’s an inventor who strives to make AI just because he thinks it needs to be done. This leads to hilariously inept characters who are such cutouts you swear the film was made out of cardboard.
CHAPPiE is also a film with a message…but you’ll never figure out what message that is. There are a ton of actual well done scenes that have meaning to them, but none of these scenes gel together to make one core idea, they’re all scattered. You won’t be able to tell if the film is pro-AI or anti-AI, and that may be due in part because Bomkamp changed his opinion on the subject halfway through production. So it’s a message film with no message.
Though to give CHAPPiE credit, there is a lot of laughs to be had at its expense. It may not be one of the great so bad its good films I had hoped it might be, but there is plenty to point and laugh at. Case and point, they subtitle a character who doesn’t need subtitles. He’s easily understandable, yet Die Antwoord is notably harder to understand yet they do not get any subtitles. The decision making is just baffling.
4. Strange Magic
It was a good year for Lucasfilm. The hype around the new Star Wars led to a media blitz, with a huge merchandising presence and one of the biggest box-office success of the year as a result. However, 12 months prior they slipped a little rotten egg entitled Strange Magic into theaters with the hope no one would notice it. Almost no one did notice, but those who did certainly thought the title fit perfectly, what a strange movie. Featuring a story by George Lucas, Strange Magic is a bizarre animated jukebox musical set in a fantasy world with fairies and other creatures of the sort. Do any of those elements seemingly go together? Doesn’t the tune of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” make you think of a magical fantasy world you want to explore? No? How about Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? You ask why those two songs would even be paired in a movie together, let alone a fantasy feature? Well congratulations for actually having a functioning brain, because Lucas clearly didn’t (he picked out the songs himself). Is it to late to rewatch The Phantom Menace instead?
From the get go, the musical nature of this film falls flat. Jukebox musicals are complicated to pull off as it can easily sound like someone leaving their IPod on shuffle and just writing a story around the songs that pop up. Most jukebox musicals pick a theme, such as making a musical constructed around the work of one artists or maybe it’s just that each character has a distinct genre of song choice that separates them from other characters. The best I can gather is that all the songs in Strange Magic are about love, which explains why the film feels repetitive. I can only listen to what boils down to the same song so many times before I scream, “Get on with it!” The movie doesn’t even need music to function, it might have worked better as a straightforward fantasy epic, the music only serves to distract from how crappy the rest of the film is. Yet it’s painfully obvious the movie is written around the music rather than getting tunes to fit the story at hand. So the plot ends up all over the place, with plot points existing almost solely to get us to the next song.
It’s a kid’s movie in the classic George Lucas mold. He wants to pull a Star Wars and use what has worked in film and literature before to create a universal tale that will maximize the effect of the film. Only where Star Wars made it work by creating it’s own world as a result, it makes Strange Magic unfocused and unoriginal. Why blend “A Midsummers Night Dream” with Beauty and the Beast and add random pop songs? Just do a “Midsummers Night Dream”, it might have turned out better. Also Lucas has stated that Star Wars was for young boys and this was supposed to be the equivalent for young girls. I take issue with that because star wars totally works as a film for everyone, not just men, and if this is what you give women then Lucas has a pretty poor idea of women.
The film’s animation is oddly detailed in the worst way, it’s pretty ugly to look at. None of the characters are appealing, and in a kid’s movie that’s paramount. The song covers are pretty charmless and all over the place. If it accomplishes anything it’ll be kids staying far away from these tunes outside of the film. It was the year’s worst kid’s movie. There’s always a handful, but this film took the cake. It’s all the sadder when you take into account the animation alone must have taken years to create, if only the rest of the movie had as much time and effort put into it.
3. Hot Pursuit
The award for year’s biggest mess goes to this failed attempt at making two likable stars carry the inanest script of the year for 87 minutes too long. Hot Pursuit actively made me want to like it, so much of this should work and yet director Anne Fletcher can’t bring out any of the fun inherent in the set-up. That might be a bit unfair to place the blame on her, almost everything wrong with the film comes from the writing team. A lot of people noted that for a film directed, produced and starring women, it sure didn’t make women look good. I point to the overlooked fact that the one part of the production completely done by men was the writing, which features two male writers. That might explain why it feels like women interpreting what men think about women, like the worst version of the telephone game you played in kindergarten. Yet that only scratches the surface of how inept the script is. A lot gets packed into 87 minutes, and I mean they cram a lot of plot and jokes into this film to the point you constantly struggle to figure out what’s not working because two seconds later you’re off to the next plot point.
Reese Witherspoon plays a by the numbers cop who doesn’t break the rules. So that’s her character flaw she’ll learn to overcome right? Well hold on, she’s also an incompetent cop who messes up everything and can’t interact with others. Now wait a second movie, you can’t shove that many character flaws in there, you get one and work with it. Too much will just make the character hard to pin down and distract from the comedy, plus the flaws contradict each other. Sofia Vergara’s character flaw is she’s supposed to be a bit too vain for her own good, putting the duo at risk sometimes. Not a strong character, but it can be worked with. But wait, she’s also supposed to be the intelligent one of the two who gives advice, plays the comedic straight man and has a vengeful side? Pick something and go with it movie! It can never tell if it wants to be a broad slapstick filled comedy or a serious film with a comedic tone. It feels like it goes out of its way to make things complicated. So many plot points and conflicts get brought up in one scene, only to be resolved by the end of that same scene. The initial character conflict doesn’t even make sense. Witherspoon at one point demands she not be treated poorley by Vergara because she’s a cop and Vergara responds that Witherspoon not judge her for being a criminal. Yet not at any point before this conversation do these things seem to be a problem. Jokes never seem to add up either. The leads pretend to make deer noises while hiding from the cops, but there’s no reason to make these noises because they aren’t being noticed by the cops in the first place. Witherspoon acts like she doesn’t understand what Vergara is saying half the time in Act 1, then she explains in Act 2 she secretly has always understood her, but for some reason in Act 3 Witherspoon states she only can understand her 30% of the time.
It’s a sad affair, especially considering the fact the two leads do have some form of chemistry. It could work if the film focused on one thing. There’s the whole idea that the two characters have to be handcuffed together, but they’re almost never in the handcuffs to allow for any comedic possibilities. It fails to draw any laughs out of the classic “cop and criminal need to get along” plot. The film is Midnight Run if Midnight Run sucked ass.
The most fascinating bad movie of the year was one which should have really been your run of the mil bad movie. This is the 4th based of the Fantastic Four comics and up to this point there has yet to be a good adaptation. It seemed Fant4stic (yes that’s how you spell it) would just suffer the same fate, but somehow this became its own thing altogether. It’s rare we get a blockbuster that should be a sure fire hit and have it miss the mark this bad. It doesn’t just miss the bull’s eye, the dart flies in the opposite direction of the dart board, flying off into the dark oblivion of crap. For the first 40 minutes it’s an average bad movie, but it slowly becomes apparent the badness is just the beginning, seeing as it takes half the movie to get their powers. I’ve never seen a superhero movie skip over the part of the origin story where the heroes actually learn to use their powers and develop as characters, but this one sure did. Ever want a superhero movie with only one action scene? No? Well here you go anyways!
The behind the scenes drama is perhaps the best film news story of 2015. What exactly went wrong we may never know, but it’s obvious that the director and the studio didn’t get along. Whereas this might usually mean we all side with the director because he’s the “true artist”, the director seems just as unreasonable as the studio in this instance. It takes a lot to make a director publicly denounce his movie, but this film did it. Everyone ended up having a good reason to denounce this turd. It was tonally everywhere and bizarrely directed, draining all the emotion from every scene. It attempts to make a dark sci-fi exploration movie out of one of the campiest and colorful comic series in history. Characters’ get traits that don’t play out into anything meaningful and the villain is all but missing until the last 15 minutes. The climax comes so out of left field I didn’t process that the film was ending until halfway through the big fight.
I could go into more detail, but this is a bad movie you can’t really describe at length because it needs to be seen to be understood. So few misfires like this come out so I can’t properly bash this, it’s too amazing not to recommend watching it, at least just to see how much money can be wasted on something this bad. For that reason alone, it only takes second place on this list. It’s the equivalent of watching a train crash into a building. Sure it’s horrible, but you can’t look away because of how amazing it is. At least it didn’t piss me off the way some other films did…..
1. The Adam Sandler Triforce of Shit
(The Cobbler, The Ridiculous 6, and Pixels)
Yeah, we didn’t just get one bad Adam Sandler film this year. We were fortunate enough for Sandler to grace us with three live action crap fests. Here’s the thing, I do like Adam Sandler. He’s made some good movies and his SNL stuff is great. He always seems like the guy you want to like because he seems likable as a person. Hell, I saw him in Top 5 last year and he was funny in that. Even his dumbest films like Jack and Jill honestly have a few jokes that work. But this year Sandler gave us some of his worst work he’s done in a while, and no one else matched him in terms of pure awfulness this year.
First off we have The Cobbler, the Sandler “art house” film of the year. You have Sandler actually trying to give a good performance and a notably good director at the helm, so this should be a success in the vein of Punch Drunk Love right? The issue is the content and humor of the film is so amazingly repulsive you’d wonder if the creative team even thought about what their jokes in a meaningful way. The plot is simple; Sandler can literally become other people by putting on their shoes he fixes with a magical stitching machine (he walks a mile in their shoes if you will). Almost all of the set-ups for how Sandler uses it come off like it’s supposed to be sweet movie, but it’s extremely creepy how he ends up using it. Sandler at one point attempts to rape a woman by posing as her boyfriend, and the film plays it for cheap laughs. He also takes the form of a transgendered person for the purposes of laughing at said transgendered character. When Max wants to rob someone, he takes the form of the film’s only predominate stereotypical black character, a telling sign this film might not be the warmest and most welcoming comedy it thinks it is. Any lesson Sandler’s character supposedly learns just makes him worse by the film’s conclusion.
Next on the chopping block is Netflix’s The Ridiculous 6. Now this is your generic bad Adam Sandler movie in every way. You got lazy stereotypes, Rob Shnieder as a race other than white, and generally bland jokes. Yet compared to The Cobbler, nothing here is all that offensive since the film is too lazy to even feel like you want to call it out for the usual bullshit. At 2 hours it’s painfully long for a comedy like this and at no point does it ever fell like anyone is trying. It’s the first time both Netflix and Sandler have done anything where it just feels like on every level it was made to be put on in the background, never to be seen. You’d hope that maybe Sandler could deliver something without the restrictions of a studio, but sadly this film shows how little anyone cares about the final product in his films. Perhaps the hardest film I sat through all year if only for how tedious it was.
But finally we have Pixels, the worst of the three. I’ve heard a lot of people bring up how it’s bad, but there are worse Sandler movies. I’m going to object on the grounds that no other Sandler film has ever actively pissed me off while watching it. Not one joke landed and every scene gave me something new to hate. At least The Ridiculous 6 was just lazy, this feels like some effort went into making this crap. Sandler’s character takes a holier than thou approach to everything. He judges a woman for not kissing him because he looks like a loser and not a rich man. Yet Sandler expresses those same double standards towards her and other characters, and it’s not like she had to make out with him anyways. Of course because it’s a Sandler movie it sides with him though. The film wants to have its cake and eat it to. It argues you shouldn’t judge nerds but makes fun of them itself. It stresses not to break the rules in games but ends up doing just that to win in the end. The worst part is I held out hope for this one. This is a good idea for a film and it not only wastes all of the potential present in the concept, it ruins all chances it can be done in another film since it’ll be seen as a Pixels knock off. This film aggravates me to no end. Rather than write further on it, I’ll simply link my review to the film here since I very well don’t feel like discussing it ever again.
Well that’s it for this year, hope next year brings better movies for us all.