Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 in Review: The Lows...

Ah, 2015. You were always going to be a difficult year, and as the studios raced to out-do each other in the scramble for bums on seats, there was always going to be a last-place. Except in a year as high-profile as 2015, it turns out there were quite a few last-places. This post is about all the movies which somehow crossed the finish-line, but don't even really deserve a participant-medal. This is in no way an exhaustive list of the flicks which have underwhelmed me in the past twelve months, it's just a round-up of the worst-offenders.

So without further ado, let's take a look at some of the movies World of Blackout has rated the lowest this year; the regretted investments made in 2014 or earlier, as the studio heads and backers alike sat in a darkened theatre with a darker mood watching their money being sprayed up the wall on a project they'll probably never brag about at a party:

This was 2015, and these were the lows…

Into The Woods
WoB Rating: 2/7
Into The Woods Well, this wasn't a great start to the year. The counterpoint to all of 2015's cinematic high-points staggered into our cinemas in January, like a belated Christmas present from a bunch of people we don't like. Cast badly and performed far worse, any semblance of fun or focus appears to have been removed from the stage production early in its transition to the big screen.

Musicals may not exactly be my forte, but I've enjoyed enough of them to know that it's not the method of delivery itself which is at fault here, but the messengers themselves.The only comforting things which came out of the debacle is that the cinema audience surrounding me appeared to like the film less than I did (judging by their poor behaviour), and that a group of my contemporaries seemed to hate it even more (I did try to warn them). Watch this if you enjoy having plot-instrumental characters die whilst off-screen.
"It's a twisted version of reality we live in where James Corden is one of the best things in a film…"

Jupiter Ascending
WoB Rating: 2/7
Jupiter Ascending And then February didn't let up, either. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed all three Matrix movies, I often feel the Wachowskis are unfairly maligned by cinemagoers who apparently 'grew up' out of Neo's world before that story was fully told. And then Speed Racer flopped spectacularly, so you think 'well, maybe that was just an unlucky strike?'. And then Cloud Atlas wasn't as well-received as they'd hoped for, so you think 'well, that was a particularly ambitious project, so fair play to them for at least trying...'

So by the time Jupiter Ascending groaned into Screen 1 of my local, even my patience was at breaking point. Taking all of the key-ingredients for "starting a blockbuster franchise" except for the storytelling, inventiveness, style, charm, wit, originality and restraint, this cringe-inducingly farcical romp can't keep a straight face long enough to convince the audience it's serious (yet at the same time, everyone know's it's not supposed to be a parody). Like a Spaceballs for a source-movie which hasn't been made yet, this is a black mark on everyone's CV. Loses another of its much-needed points for featuring Sean Bean as The Sean Bean Character™.
"A sci-fi actioner so indelibly stupid that it makes Highlander 2 look like Looper..."

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
WoB Rating: 1/7
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 Oh, what do I say about Adam Sandler's less-talented friend? More importantly, what can be said about an unasked-for sequel which arrives six years after its progenitor, and is so thin on the ground with ideas that rehashing the first movie's slapstick with a 'Holiday On The Buses' format provides the back-of-a-fag-packet setup?

Such a cavalier approach to screenwriting allows the film to build up precisely none of the emotional core that you can tell was actually the point of the movie at one stage. Even at a lean ninety minutes, the ordeal drags terrifyingly slowly, to the point where you feel like you're trying to read through a Peter Kay script while being screamed at by the SNL team. Yes, I'm a complete comedy-snob. No, that shouldn't mean that making good comedy movies is difficult. But as much as I deplored this lazy shoutfest, it wasn't to be the last time this guy would irk me in 2015...
"If you think a fat man falling over is funny, Kevin James has a joke he'd like to tell you. Eight times."

San Andreas
WoB Rating: 1/7
San Andreas Now credit where it's due, I didn't find San Andreas as outright hateful as other "1/7" movies on this year's list, but the film has to lose any blockbuster-points it had built up due to the staggering stupidity of its execution. Ostensibly a two-hour callback to the disaster movies of the 1990s, this film doesn't even attempt to move its methodology on by the requisite two decades, instead deciding that "inherently stupid man strides into inherently dangerous situations to rescue inherently unlikable family" should be enough to make us sympathise with any/all of the characters.

The only people on-screen I felt any kinship with were the ones lucky enough to die in The World's Largest Earthquake™, at least being spared the harrowing ordeal of having to rebuild West-Coast civilisation while Dwayne Rock™ helps by looking nobly into the middle-distance, underneath a slow-motion flag, having done his bit by rescuing Carla Gugino in a knackered helicopter/truck/speedboat, even though the amount of surgical inflation her face has undergone would have kept her afloat in any marine-situation anyway. I didn't hate the film, I just hate being patronised by a screenplay which still counts on its fingers and gets confused when it has to involve the other hand, too...
"The film with a script so unremittingly dense, it's developed its own gravity well..."

Knock Knock
WoB Rating: 2/7
Knock Knock Oh, Keanu. All the goodwill our Canuck buddy had built up with his bold return in John Wick is solidly obliterated by this jaw-droppingly hackneyed flick about a movie-perfect architect having his life turned upside down because of a momentary lapse of judgement. This "Steamy Adult Thriller™ for people who think they're being a rebel by drinking red wine and playing Kiss through an overpriced DJ deck" might have been salvageable, were it not for writer/director apparently deciding that Evil Women Are Bad After All™.

Don't get me wrong, that still goes beyond any coherent subtext that this late-night Channel 5 shite has to offer, but if the film-makers can't be bothered to put any layered meaning into their finished project, then the audience will do it for them (some of them will, anyway. Although not the ones toward the back of the cinema finding something in their pockets for an hour and half). Roth has a distinctive voice, and many of his films can be described as 'a guilty pleasure'. This one's just guilty...
"Fifty Shades for the dads - excruciating"

WoB Rating: 1/7
Pixels And with that, Kevin James was back, his cack-handed attempts at Everyman Comedy™ failing to ignite under the considerable shadow of Adam Sandler, deciding to not only insult moviegoers who'd paid for the privilege of watching his Mid-life Messianic Fantasy, but also dragging the entire gaming community through the mud, too.

Whether it's Sandler's redemptionless man-child refusing to develop throughout an entire screenplay, or the vast array of one-dimensional characters he's written to surround himself with (including "The Woman One That Fancies Adam Sandler"), there's almost nothing in Pixels that I didn't find objectionable on some level. Not only is it not a good film, it's not even a good Adam Sandler film. Also features Sean Bean playing The Sean Bean Character™ (not that there were any points left to deduct for that).
"...based on a 1982 video game in which the player controls Adam Sandler, urinating over the smouldering ashes of a generation's charred memories of adolescent fun."

Fantastic Four
WoB Rating: 2/7
Fantastic Four After the sterling work which Disney and Marvel Studios have done to bring superheroes into the mainstream with maximised credibility, my considered reaction to Fox's Fantastic Four rights-grab is the equivalent of sitting a child down and telling them that you're not angry with their behaviour, you're just really, really disappointed. Albeit disappointed to the point where you're fucking livid as well.

Seemingly learning precisely no lessons from their two previous efforts with the franchise (which are massively flawed admittedly, but in which even I see some entertainment value), the studio which has done relatively well with the scattershot X-Men series has decided to bring another origins-story to the screen, changing many of the classic elements of The Four's genesis, yet somehow making it massively uninteresting in the process.

There's an argument for realising that characters so rigidly clean-cut as Reed Richards and Co are actually outdated in 2015, and that the traits which made them special to comic-readers of the past are no longer viable currency to today's cinematic audience. Then you remember that Marvel/Disney have taken Captain America (a character second only to Superman in his moral integrity) and made him both relevant and entertaining. If you're not even going to try, Fox, just give it back...
"I can tell you now that Fantastic Four is no longer the worst Fantastic Four movie. Fantastic Four is."

The Bad Education Movie
WoB Rating: 2/7
The Bad Education Movie Like an embarrassing uncle thinking he's down with the kids because he buys his jeans at Next rather than Sainsbury's, Jack Whitehall edged his way into the cinematic diary's 'post-exam-results' slot with a film to make your toes curl so hard they'll tear through the top of your shoes.

Acting as an extension/post-script to the TV sitcom of the same name, The Bad Education Movie makes that classic rookie-error of thinking "hey, we've got a 15 certificate, so we can be way more over the top than we ever could be on telly!", seemingly not realising that the key to comedy is timing and restraint, not just drawing pictures of willies on everything and crudely stereotyping the inhabitants of Cornwall in the style of a 1970s club-standup.

Although the cinematic outing is clearly for fans of the existing property, my biggest beef is that (even though I don't particularly like his work) I know Jack Whitehall is better than this. I don't mind you being shit, Jack, but at least act like you're sincere…
"A film which knows its audience and plays proudly to them."

The Transporter Refuelled
WoB Rating: 1/7
The Transporter Refuelled And there are some movies you just can't give the benefit of the doubt to. After three downwardly-spiralling installments, Luc Besson and co decide that a big-screen reboot is what's needed, and so the hunt is on to cast a one-dimensional character with an actor even less capable than Jason Statham (I like Jason Statham, but let's not pretend he's good at anything other than Being Jason Statham).

Enter Ed Skrein, stuggling to keep his cockey-wideboy accent at bay, as the smooth, debonair and staggeringly misogynistic Frank (yes, that's really his character name), who frowns, trashes cars and gropes women for about an hour and a half while the audience wonder how the investment money was gathered for this Jeremy Clarkson dream-sequence.

Any points the movie may have accrued in petrol-burning adrenaline are deducted for a screenplay assembled by a computer and some woeful miscasting (when Ray Stevenson's your "mentor" archetype, you know you're really in trouble). A waste of the money it takes to print the ticket.
"...utterly, utterly turgid."

The Last Witch Hunter
WoB Rating: 2/7
The Last Witch Hunter You're absolutely right, of course. Just how could Vin Diesel fail to capitalise on the Fast & Furious movies, XXX movies and the Riddick movies, as a character (A. Character. Singular.) whose best cinematic work involves him not speaking at all? Yep, that's right - you assemble a Franchise-Starter™ in the sub-Highlander style, based around the Dungeons & Dragons character which the star actually plays when he's not being paid to grimace on-camera. Which is akin to taking a doodle on a beer mat by someone who can't draw and constructing an oil-painting around it.

Perfectly adequate straight-to-DVD fare, this meandering mess stinks of multiple rewrites and lifting ideas from pretty much every fantasy flick of the last forty years. There's no Sean Bean Character™ present, but The Michael Caine Character™ turns up for long enough to make everyone remember that he's an opportunistic actor, at best. Again, not marked down because the cast and crew can necessarily do better, but more because they're just not trying...
"The cinematic equivalent of a drunk who keeps forgetting the story he's telling."

^^ All of this is just my humble opinion, of course, and I've already met a few people this year who don't share my ire for the movies in question. If you're one of them, why not damned well explain yourself in the comments?

The full list of WoB reviews for this year is right here.

Here's to 2016!

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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