Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Worst Films of 2016

When you see 114 films in a year, you're bound to wind up seeing a few terrible movies. And although 2016 was a pretty solid year for movies, there were definitely some bad movies that played in multiplexes all over the country. Now, I'll be honest here- I tend to avoid movies that are actively bad. Movies where you watch the trailer and go "Wow, that will be a terrible movie." I'm sorry, I don't get paid for this, and I don't hate myself enough to buy a ticket to Norm of the North or The Disappointments Room, two films that will probably pop up on other "worst" lists. Nonetheless, I think I've come up with a pretty bad list of films, ones that range from aggressively mediocre bores to disasters of apocalyptic proportions. So without further delay, here are my picks for the fifteen worst films of 2016!


Image courtesy of Broad Green Pictures

I had very high hopes for this Bryan Cranston-starred drug drama, which looked quite similar to Netflx's excellent Narcos and had the potential to be a breath of fresh air in a ho-hum summer. Unfortunately, this weird mash-up of Scorsese-isms and American Hustle ended up being a huge bore, a dull thriller deprived of much intrigue or excitement. It felt like it was reaching for something that it just couldn't achieve, and even a half-decent performance from Cranston couldn't save it from total mediocrity. The Infiltrator is what happens when a crime drama goes very wrong, and with some very poor storytelling and a cast of bland characters, this one missed the mark by a mile.


Image Credit: Coming Soon

When I'm in the minority in regards to the critical reception of a film, I'm usually at least able to understand the other point of view. But I must say, when it comes to Clint Eastwood's Sully, I am still utterly baffled by the strong reviews that this film received (85% on Rotten Tomatoes and 74 on Metacritic). Look, I love Tom Hanks as much as the next guy, and I have infinite respect for Clint Eastwood. And in addition to that, I think the story of Chesley Sullenberger is an inspiring, fascinating one, and I was really looking forward to a good cinematic recreation of that monumental event. But nothing really happens in Sully. They go through the plane crash sequence twice, we get a little bit of the turmoil that went on in Sully's life after the crash, and then they have other pilots fly simulators. That's it. Despite my adoration for everyone involved, Sully can't be viewed as anything other than a huge misfire.


Image Credit: Coming Soon

I was very much looking forward to Allied, simply because it seemed like a film that would be right in my wheelhouse. After all, it's directed by Robert Zemeckis, stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and is heavily inspired by classic World War II romantic thrillers like Casablanca. But while Allied has a premise filled with intrigue, it's one of the dullest films I've seen in a theater all year. It's a hopelessly self-serious flick, hindered by two hollow performances, choppy editing, mediocre visual effects, and a plot that has no momentum. Not to mention the downer of an ending, which takes the film noir inspiration to a whole different. Allied should have been a slick, entertaining piece of classic Hollywood pulp, but it ended up being nothing more than a major missed opportunity.


Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

X-Men: Apocalypse had all the momentum in the world. Everything was working in this movie's favor. At the time of the film's release in May, the X-Men franchise was coming off its two best outings in recent years- 2014's superb X-Men: Days of Future Past and this year's Deadpool, the R-rated overnight sensation. With most of the principle cast members from the First Class timeline coming back for another outing, as well as the return of director Bryan Singer and the addition of a villainous Oscar Isaac, Apocalypse was primed to be another excellent outing for the series. But ultimately, this film only ended up reaffirming the inconsistency of the X-Men franchise. With a messy narrative, several repetitive story threads, and a laughable antagonist, Apocalypse emerged as the worst X-Men film in a very long time.

11. WHY HIM?

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

I'll be completely honest- I did not have high expectations going into last week's screeing of Why Him? It was the last official preview screening of the year, and I didn't have anything going on, so I figured it was worth a look. And while this Bryan Cranston and James Franco-led comedy isn't as aggressively awful as some of the other comedies I saw in 2016, it's still a slog to get through. This film is essentially one mildly amusing "Dad vs. Boyfriend" concept stretched out to a ghastly 110 minutes (seriously, this movie is painfully long). It's another comedy that seems to believe that profanity and sex are inherently funny, and the fact that Cranston and Franco's characters are both distinctly unlikable makes this one even tougher to enjoy. It may make a decent profit this year, but Why Him? is destined to be forgotten.


When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was released back in June, some gave it a pass for being just a little bit better than its apocalyptic 2014 predecessor. But being slightly better than a total disaster still means that your movie is pretty bad, and that's exactly the case for Out of the Shadows. It's blockbuster filmmaking at its dullest, rendered pointless by its annoying characters, cookie-cutter plot, and manufactured sense of "fun." Sure, they bring in plenty of fan service, but the brief appearances of Krang and Casey Jones are stuck in a movie that just doesn't work. Thankfully, after a poor showing at the box office, we might just be done with the TMNT franchise after all. Good things can come from bad sequels.


Image courtesy of Sony

Believe it or not, I held out some hope for The Angry Birds Movie. On the surface, it sure did seem like a cash grab, made solely to capitalize on the success of a popular app. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking of Phil Lord and Chris Miller's The LEGO Movie, which seemed like a terrible idea until people actually saw it. The Angry Birds Movie ended up being a terrible movie on paper and in execution, and it still stands as the worst animated film I saw in a year that was actually good for the genre. This is a frenetic, confusing film, and its constant use of cheap references, snarky sarcasm, and sensory overload grows old after about 20 minutes. For young kids who love a non-stop barrage of sounds and colors, this movie is perfect, but everyone else will just want it to end.


Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

I don't know what the hell happened in Assassin's Creed, and if you saw the latest video game adaptation debacle, you probably don't know either. Maybe we can just chalk Justin Kurzel's film up as a "for the fans" affair, but if you're making a movie for a very specific group of people, you don't cast Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and Brenden Gleeson. Clearly, this was a film that was shooting for a higher bar, and the general hope was that it would bring video game movies to life. Instead, Assassin's Creed ends up being self-serious, borderline incoherent nonsense, bolstered by stale action scenes, flat characters, and the messy juxtaposition of two different narratives. This one is still playing in theaters- avoid it like the plague.


Image Credit: YouTube

By far the most disappointing film of 2016, David Ayer's Suicide Squad is a trainwreck of the highest order. After a series of outstanding trailers, everybody was excited beyond belief for the film that would finally save the DC Extended Universe. On August 4, I sat down in the theater, having already read a ton of negative reviews, and I said to myself "It can't be that bad, right?" Oh, but it could. And it was.

Suicide Squad is a movie. Well, technically, that is. It has no shape or form or cohesion, instead opting to work as an insane swirl of character introductions, special effects, and plot threads. It's mind-boggling on almost every level that anybody at Warner Bros. thought this movie would work, and the result is nothing short of disastrous.


As if the original Ride Along wasn't bad enough, earlier this year, we received the wonderful cinematic gift of Ride Along 2. As someone who hated the original, I went into Ride Along 2 pretty much expecting a trainwreck. And it indeed remains one of the worst movies of the year. I have almost nothing left to say about this one. I've written extended pieces on why I hate this movie and wish that Kevin Hart would finally stop doing these mediocre comedies. It's time for me to move on from the Ride Along franchise as well.


Ride Along 2 might just be a bigger disaster than Zoolander 2, but this is the part of the list where expectations came into play. See, I didn't expect anything from that film, which was a continuation of a series that I hated to begin with. However, I was actually hoping to laugh at Zoolander 2, the long-awaited return of Ben Stiller's male model. I'm not the biggest fan of the 2001 film, but it's certainly funny, and the idea of a sequel was appealing to me. I went to see this one with a friend after school one day, and I was stunned by how bored I was. Zoolander 2 is quite possibly the most unfunny movie of the year, a sequel that is just so tedious in just about every way. And the most painful part is that you can see the filmmakers straining to get a laugh out of the audience, and they just can't pull it off. There's nothing more deflating than sitting in an audience for a comedy that just isn't working, and that's what happened with Zoolander 2. This movie sucks, and the fact that it shouldn't makes it that much worse.


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Dirty Grandpa has slowly become one of those movies that is synonymous with "awful." This movie is atrocious on just about every concievable level, and the fact that it stars talented people like Robert De Niro and Zac Efron makes it even more painful to endure. This film promises raunchiness, and on that front, it certainly delivers. However, in the midst of all the penis humor, f-bombs, and gross-out gags, the filmmakers forgot the jokes. Dirty Grandpa is profoundly unfunny, a movie so deprived of any genuine laughs that I almost starting laughing out of embarrassment. It's the definition of a January movie, but it's an experience that I will not forget any time soon- and I don't mean that as a positive.


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Mechanic: Resurrection was the only film that received an "F" in 2016, and even though it ended up placing in the #3 slot on this list, it most definitely deserves that terrible score. This Jason Statham vehicle is a movie that should not exist, and yet it does, dropped into the doldrums of August in the hopes that nobody would ever see it. I saw the film at a preview screening that was nearly empty, which is something of a rarity. But quite frankly, those who stayed home were lucky. Even the stars of Resurrection don't seem interested in injecting any life into the film, so it ends up being a waste of good talent. It's shlocky, tedious, and not even remotely fun, a toxic combination that results in one of the worst action movies in recent years.


London Has Fallen is not merely a bad movie, but an offensive one, a film that insults the intelligence of the audience. It's an overtly racist action film, made with an excess of ra-ra American patriotism and a total lack of thoughtfulness or depth. Now, I'm not someone who looks for racist or sexist undertones in films, but when Gerard Butler's numbskull of a lead character threatened to knock the main villain "back to whatever -stan" he's from, even I was taken aback. London Has Fallen is an appropriate metaphor for a political year in a way, which makes it even more ironic that Newt Gingrich embraced it in a bizarre series of tweets. London Has Fallen is a disgrace to the Die Hard genre, and a total mess. Even one solid action scene can't save it from being counted as one of the worst films of the year.


Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

There are a lot of awful films on this list. Films that were a chore to sit through, films that were dull, tiresome, and even laughably atrocious. But in the end, this list will be topped by Independence Day: Resurgence, a blockbuster misfire of cataclysmic proportions. This was a movie so bad that calling it a movie feels generous. It's a collection of scenes united by......well, not much of anything. The aliens are back in this long-delayed sequel to the 1996 classic, and even they don't seem that interested by what's going on. Roland Emmerich's film is an exercise in mind-numbing excess, a barrage of city-smashing destruction that isn't even exciting in the slightest. The characters are essentially cardboard cutouts, the plot is as flimsy as humanly possible, and the conclusion is simply hilarious in the worst possible way. To make matters even more insufferable, I was actually intrigued by this film. It was one of my most anticipated of the summer, and I was really hoping for some classic blockbuster fun. Instead, Roland Emmerich gave us the worst movie of the year.

And now, with that said and done, I get to forget that these movies ever happened. Later this week, we finally get to the fun stuff- my Top 25 list. Should be up in the coming days.

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