Contributor Brad Slager (@MartiniShark)
Every time we flip the calendar, the power brokers in Dream Land deliver annual success assessments. Whether that means handing out trophies to the underappreciated mega-celebrities or listing the films that earned more money than a Reno, Nevada gambling resort, the end of each year means Hollywood loves to tally up the winners.
Not me. I instead root around in the muck to filter out the other items. There is a clinical term for people who revel in watching bad cinema – I’m not sure of it, as I tune out my therapists when they are explaining this detail. But I savor the dreck and the dross. I’m drawn to the castoff offerings and those studios with less than studious decision-making. So I have provided my list of 20 of the worst titles that came out last year, with recommendations for bad-film enjoyment.
To avoid the expected squabbles over pitchers of beer, I did not rank these titles. So here, to prevent barstool tossing, is the alphabetical list of the movies that were not so much released into theaters in 2016 as they were released on recognizance.
50 Shades of Black
We were delivered all the usual spoofery from the Wayans Brothers, except less. Maybe because their target this time was not a franchise or a genre, but a lone film? If you have ever seen one of their previous humor-free satire attempts, all you need to know is that this is even 50% LESS funny.
Allegiant (The Divergent Series)
Blame the "Hunger Games.” Actually, blame studios like Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate for being desperate to cash in by copying the young-adult dystopian formula. The Divergent Series began as a moderate success, but this third iteration earned half of what the first two entries brought in. As a result, Lionsgate announced an alteration in the usual plan of splitting the final entry into two films: the budget on part 4 would be slashed, and the title will be relegated to a television premier.
Paramount took a bath on this $100 million wildly unneeded remake of the legendary title, earning only a fraction at the box office. The spectacle and marvel of the chariot races are rendered down to a cartoon, as most of the action was rendered on computers. There is zero reason to watch this rehash over the classic epic. EVERYTHING is better in that epic, including all the practically shot chariot race scenes.
An American girl (Maggie, from The Walking Dead) is hired to be a nanny as a pair of septuagenarians leaves their British manor. Their “boy,” named Brahms, turns out to be a doll. There is a list of rules: kiss him goodnight, don’t cover his face, don’t leave him alone, don’t spill water on him. (So he’s a Gremlin?!) Idiocy reigns. One character wants to learn what kind of person she is, by analyzing her chewed gum (the Hell?!). And it only gets dumber.
The Brothers Grimsby
The latest character incarnation for Sacha Baron Cohen is a cement-headed soccer hooligan, a broad caricature, to be charitable. He teams up with his estranged brother, who it turns out is a world-class master spy. The script is reliant on ass-centric, scatological humor. One scene involves the characters hiding inside of a female elephant, who then engages in copulation. Yes, that happened.
Can you believe there are still Steven King properties left to film? This one is a bit dated, given the premise involves people who are turned into the undead through their cell phones. In case you missed it, that is a metaphor for how technology is making us into social zombies. The premise never rises above that vaunted level. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson are slumming here with good fun in bad filmmaking.
Keanu Reeves looked lost in this miasma of a movie. A police procedural with a violent cop (Reeves) and a spot-welded second storyline of a divine pregnancy made zero sense. The mess was due to Lionsgate stepping in to re-edit what it felt was a different mess. The writer/director changed his name in the credits as a result. Now you know why you had never heard of this one.
Arguably this became the most argumentative media-hyped film of the year. As Sony sought to capture the public’s attention by going with an all-female reboot, they instead set off a firestorm. Normally that type of controversy entails receiving free publicity, which only means the failure of this summer blockbuster is even more striking. You can put aside all the charges of misogyny leading to its demise; this film committed the biggest comedy crime: it was not at all funny.
Gods Of Egypt
Laughably inept with abusive computer imagery and scenery-gobbling performances, this was regarded as a mess ahead of its release and became a laughable calamity once viewed. The Middle Eastern cast is almost entirely white, including Gerard Butler in the lead as an Egyptian with a Scottish brogue. The action is overblown, the plot nonsensical, and there are unintentional laughs throughout a serious historical action-drama.
Should be subtitled “GoPro: The Movie.” A pure action set piece with an empty-headed hysterical storyline, this largely ignored offering is at times a marvel of action filmmaking. Shot entirely from the POV perspective of the silent protagonist, it is little more than loosely stitched-together scenarios to justify the frenetic action scenes. There are times where it becomes an incoherent mess, but the various action spectacles make up enough to keep watching.
London Has Fallen
Lunk-minded sequel to the lunk-minded original, Gerard Butler (yes, again) reprises his role as a Secret Service agent who imperils his best friend, President Aaron Eckhart. A political funeral brings a wide assortment of foreign leaders to London. A terrorist organization orchestrates rampant death and destruction because of the most complex strategic plot with dozens of locations and hundreds of men that are executed to perfection – EXCEPT for the elements involving Butler.
An amazingly horrible talking-cat debacle made all the worse because it features two Oscar winners and is directed by the once-respected Barry Sonnenfeld. Kevin Spacey is a type-A executive who has his personality placed into a house cat to learn the value of his loved ones. There is the logic of this mess: to learn family values, he becomes the one animal that is the most selfish and aloof. Nonsensical from start to finish, it is worthwhile if only to hear Christopher Walken warble the line, “I use newspaper to clean the poopie boxes.”
Norm Of The North
This completely derivative children’s animated film should have been sent directly to rental purgatory. Rob Schneider lends his voice to the titular polar bear who must travel to New York, to battle the land developers who threaten to destroy his homeland – because the Arctic is prime real estate, I’m guessing? The only parts of this that make sense are the numerous elements lifted directly from far more competent animated features.
Toy maker Mattel has long been trying to have this toy line adapted to a feature motion picture. An earlier attempt, over seven years ago, was slated to star Taylor Lautner. Desperate to get their origin story prepped for a franchise – and long-term merchandising – they went with bargain studio Dolphin Films. A meager $10 million budget meant no-name actors in the leads, older generation special effects, and a script that was pointless.
Set almost entirely in a dwelling, Naomi Watts is a psychologist tending to her paraplegic stepson as a former child patient of hers arrives, then disappears. A storm rolls in, trapping her in the home, and she next grapples with jump-scares and musical stings as she tries to figure out if this is ghost-related. It reaches an ending (spoiler-alert) that is both inevitable AND asinine: the only other character who could be responsible for the terror is the invalid son. Yea, about that . . .
The highly anticipated and lowly regarded ensemble anti-hero epic was a confusing and schizophrenic mess. Most noted the conflicting content, which was a direct result of studio meddling. After the dark version made by director David Ayer, a trailer came out that the studio loved, as it was brighter and funnier. So Warner Brothers went to Trailer Park, the company that made the promo reels, and had them re-edit the entire epic on a tight schedule to meet the release date. Presto! Here’s your convoluted mess!
Swiss Army Man
While many point out “The Lobster” as the weird film of the year (even star Colin Farrell refers to it as “absurd”), I think I could top it. A man is marooned on an island and just as he is about to commit suicide a corpse washes up on shore, played by Daniel Radcliff. The dead body has extreme flatulence, to the extent it can propel itself through the water. So the man rides the farting Harry Potter like a jet ski. He also uses the erections of the corpse as a compass. Yes, all of that occurs on screen.
Bloated, meandering, and well past the height of popularity of the video game it was adapted from, this epic computer cartoon was a drudgery to sit through. Battle scenes occasionally break up the lecturing establishment of legends, and there are some impressive visuals, but all is lost in a flood of character names that leave you adrift. You lose track what Ogrim Doomhammer /Lady Taria Wrynn/Callan Lothar/Khadgar/Durotan/Garon Halforcen are up to, and thus stop caring about them very quickly.
Kevin Smith’s film career has taken an odd offramp in recent years. Seemingly put through the Hollywood wringer after “Jersey Girl,” he has since made films that can be described as “curiosities.” To give an indication, this is regarded as a spin-off from “Tusk,” (Smith’s film of a man transformed into a walrus.) It co-stars Smith’s own daughter, and the daughter of Johnny Depp, who cameos. This vanity project is little more than a patchwork of scenes, in a film seemingly made only for those who were making it.
Nowhere near as funny, lacking any quotable lines, and merely content to recycle anything that worked in the original film. More than a dozen years since the first became a modest hit, and then developed a larger following, means this was a follow-up that few were clamoring to see. A pun-ravaged insufferable movie reviewer may have said, “The sequel is modeled so close to the original it was only made to Blue Steel the audience’s money.”
Thank goodness I am above such hackery.