I think it’s safe to say that 2016 didn’t quite turn out the way we had all hoped or expected.
This year more than any other in recent memory was unpredictable as hell, and many times in the worst way possible. We lost far too many movie & music personalities far too soon (I’m still reeling from Carrie Fisher’s passing), and on the world stage there were way too many crazy things — and people — hogging the limelight.
It was the kind of year that put things into perspective. No matter how mind-bogglingly shitty a movie turned out to be, it was a mere trifle compared to the true pain and suffering that was out there. Which was helpful, because I saw an awful lot of mind-bogglingly shitty movies in 2016. Still, this particular crop of movies struck me as being even worse than usual. So consider the following list a summation of the year that was…
Many people thought “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” was the year’s worst superhero movie. Many people also thought the Earth was flat. Make no mistake, this was hands-down the worst of the lot. This was Bryan Singer’s public declaration that he no longer gave a flying fart about the X-Men. Or making watchable movies for that matter. Everyone looked either bored (Jennifer-I-refuse-to-be-painted-blue-again-Lawrence), confused (thanks to stupidity-ridden plotting), or pissed off (Michael Fassbender because they made Magneto a dumbass; Oscar Isaac because they made him look like a giant prune cosplaying as an alien drag queen). The only reason it’s not on the Top 10 is down to a few saving graces, namely Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, and the 80s setting. No other property has screamed so desperately for a total reboot.
Some movies improve with time, others age badly. The “Ghostbusters” reboot isn’t even a year old, and it’s already like that guy who drank from the false Grail in “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”. Whatever semblance of novelty the all-female cast initially held soon faded in the face of a piss-poor script, painfully forced callbacks to the original, and director Paul Feig’s arrogantly misguided handling of the premise. And the humour. And the characters. And the performances. And the production design. And the effects. And the music. And the logo. Would’ve been easier if I just said “basically, everything”. But where’s the fun in that?
10 JASON BOURNE
Almost a decade after Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon closed the book decisively on the whole Bourne saga, they decided they simply could not leave well enough alone. Because apparently, Greengrass had something revelatory to share with audiences of the world. Turns out he discovered the cure for patience. You’d think after the criticisms over his shaky-cam style of shooting anything — be it a fight scene, a car chase scene, or a man downloading files into a thumbdrive scene — he’d have learned his lesson. Oh no. Greengrass went and made everything even shakier-cammier (yes, I know that’s not a word). To the point where you just couldn’t make out a damn thing that was happening on screen. Fight scene? Matt Damon could have been playing patty-cake for all you know.
Then there was the phony attempt at pathos by killing off yet another female character. Guess what, Paul? It doesn’t work if we don’t give a damn about the characters. Bourne himself came off like he’d lost not just his motivation, but his brains as well with the amount of tactical blunders he made. I just couldn’t stand to see a once-great spy franchise self-destruct so completely, and considering the talent of all involved, this was all the more upsetting.
9 GODS OF EGYPT
Egyptian mythology is incredibly rich and compelling. And that’s just when you read about it. Imagine a movie about Falcon-headed Sun Gods battling Evil Lords of the Underworld for the souls of the departed. Sounds like a recipe for blockbuster fun, even (or especially) if it veers into total camp. But the makers of “Gods Of Egypt” still managed to make one of the year’s most narratively uninspired and objectively boring movies.
The whitewashed casting was the least of its problems, though it was hard to believe anyone was Egyptian when everyone looked and sounded either Scottish, Danish, or Drunkish. No, it was the terrible “directing” by Alex Proyas that doomed this. It’s like he decided to do an experiment to see which department he could manipulate into performing the absolute worst: the actors, the screenwriters, the visual effects team, the camera crew, or the action choreographers. It was a tie.
8 THE FOREST
This was actually a good year for horror, and I’ll address that in my Best Of list. As with any year though, horror is the genre that tends to deliver the worst of the worst. This is primarily because it’s comparatively cheap and easy to produce, so the results are often equally low-rent.
The sad thing is, “The Forest” had a great setting going for it that made it feel unique, with the potential to be scary as hell. Japan’s infamous Aokigahara, better known as “Suicide Forest” is deeply disturbing in real life without the need for supernatural embellishment. Yet the version we got in the movie was utterly stripped of any sense of mystery or menace, leaving us with a whole lot of nothing happening, broken up by the occasional jump scare you could spot a mile away. I’m still annoyed at how badly they wasted a golden opportunity.
7 THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR
When the weakest thing about the first movie turns out to be the most sorely missed element of your sequel, you know you’re in serious trouble. As blah as Kristen Stewart’s Snow White was in “Snow White & The Huntsman”, she was a necessary component of the mythology they had built. Without her, this follow-up couldn’t move forward, so they moved backward. In every way.
Part prequel, part sidequel, the story quickly painted itself into all sorts of ugly corners trying to justify Snow White’s absence. It focused on filling the backstory for characters no one needed or asked for, and connected characters that had no business having any prior connections, to the point where it all collapsed under the weight of its own convoluted tediousness. Even talented and highly charismatic performers like Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt could do nothing to save a movie this cold and dead inside.
6 WIENER DOG
Introducing “Arthouse Pretentiousness: The Movie”. Look, I’m all for a movie not spoon-feeding the audience in terms of characterisation or narrative. But when a movie goes out of its way to give us absolutely nothing, it deserves to be called out for what it is. And director Todd Solondz’s “Wiener Dog” is nothing more than a bunch of meaningless scenes strung together. No, actually it is a bunch of meaningless scenes strung together that ends on a totally unearned downbeat note and some pseudo-profound (translation: bullshit) symbolism.
It had a fantastic cast and it wasted every last one of them, from Danny DeVito to Julie Delpy to Ellen Burstyn. They were all saddled with characters that started out unrelatable and ended up unlikeable. If this movie had a face, it would be very, very smug. And I would want to slap the shit out of it.
5 MOTHER’S DAY
At face value, it might seem mean-spirited to take issue with a movie that’s about honouring mothers. Don’t be fooled, boys and girls. It’s a scam. For all its sickly-sweet sentimentalism on display, this movie does not have a heart. At least not one that genuinely cares about paying tribute to the most important woman in our lives. If it had a heart, it would be a blackened, cynical one. Because this movie was made with the sole purpose of cashing in on the occasion. Sure, one might say that’s what Mother’s Day is, too. But who says spending money is the only way to show your love for mom?
In that vein, even if they made this to make money (showbiz IS a business after all), couldn’t they have at least put some real care into this? Nope, they took the most formulaic, box-ticking approach possible without bothering to have characters that felt like believable people. The cuteness was severely contrived, the so-called human drama was fake and hollow. You get more truth and sincerity in an insurance ad.
4 INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
Roland Emmerich should be banned from making any more movies. For the record, note that I said this in a year where Michael Bay put out a movie (“13 Hours”). Shockingly, Bay showed us he could still make decent entertainment. Meanwhile, Emmerich showed us that the notion of Director’s Jail needs to be made a real thing, where they actually lock up filmmakers for inflicting garbage like “Independence Day: Regurgitation” on paying audiences. It’s like Emmerich forgot, or maybe ignored everything that made the first one work. Despite its inherent goofiness, there was still the urge to show us a plain old good time.
This one seemed more preoccupied with its own legacy — as if in the last 20 years the original attained some kind of historical importance in Cinema (it didn’t) — and therefore decided to take itself oh-so seriously. In the process, it wiped out any semblance of fun or lightness, which meant all the stupid stuff that would have otherwise been endearing instead came across irritating and tiresome. Man, what a soulless, joyless, worthless waste of time. If aliens were to invade us in real life, our best weapon would be to beam this movie aboard their mothership, then just sit back as they all died a slow, painful death. Death by Emmerich.
3 BLAIR WITCH
Come to think of it, with the next three entries on this list, we’d have no more need for nukes, ever. They all deliver massive payloads of destructive suckage, just in varying degrees. The 1999 original was a true genre classic. This ill-advised follow-up ranks above the bottom two (by a whisker) only because of a couple of semi-effective scares. But it quickly pissed away any semblance of goodwill with a relentless onslaught of infuriating filmmaking and storytelling choices.
Director Adam Wingard must’ve thought he was making a bold expansion of the Blair Witch mythology and a clever update of the found footage style. All he did was make me miss the ruthless simplicity of the first film. Dude, loud noises, cheap jump scares and gimmicky camera tricks are not what make a horror movie scary. At the very least, try not to make your audience wish they were actually stuck in the woods somewhere instead of sitting through the abject misery that is your movie.
2 ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Speaking of miserable, here’s a fitting depiction of the sorry state of Johnny Depp’s career. Grotesque makeup, check. Weird accent, check. Using grotesque makeup and weird accent as an excuse to ham it up instead of putting in the effort to do some real acting, check. At this point, Depp has become a full-blown parody of himself. Yet his horrid performance as the Mad Hatter wasn’t even the worst thing about this movie. That’s how frickin’ bad it was.
James Bobin’s lifeless direction made the manic excesses of Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” seem like a treat in comparison. Ironically, Bobin tried to maintain some sort of stylistic and tonal consistency with Burton’s movie. He tried so hard, it veered into overcompensation and the result was a mess. And not even an interesting one at that. So for all of Depp’s usual attempts at chewing the scenery like no tomorrow, he was a mere cog in this giant, lumbering machine of headache-inducing nonsense. I’d like to think that its huge failure at the Box Office will serve as a wake-up call to both Depp and Hollywood execs to stop making this kind of drivel, but that’s just wishful thinking.
There are some awful movies where you feel sorry for the people involved and hope it doesn’t hurt their careers too badly. Then there are movies that aren’t just unsalvageable, bottom-dwelling crapfests, they’re part of a pattern of consciously apathetic and irresponsible work by people who really should know (and do) better. That’s where you know it’s okay to curse and swear and wish the worst upon their careers. Ladies and gentlemen, “Skiptrace” starring Jackie Chan.
This movie was an utter disgrace from start to finish, and it was glaringly obvious that no one here was even trying. Not Renny Harlin, who was once the guy who directed the 2nd best “Die Hard” movie. Not Johnny Knoxville, who was once a daring comedian who kick-started a radical brand of physical comedy in “Jackass”. And definitely not Chan, who was once the greatest martial arts star in the world. None of these guys brought even an ounce of that energy or effort to this project.
Nothing in this movie worked. Nothing. The plot was a lazy mish-mash of clichés hastily cobbled together, the humour landed with an embarrassing thud every single time, and the action was as sloppily choreographed and shot as it was performed — in many cases, not even by Chan but by his stunt double. In the moments where he did bother to do his own stunts, he practically sleepwalked through them. Being past his prime is no excuse. There are other ways of remaining relevant as an action performer. Chan simply doesn’t give a shit anymore, so why should we? I know I’m done with him.