Thursday December 24, 2015 2:54 PM
After Sam Mendes rewrote the Bond rulebook with the fresh and exciting Skyfall, his return to 007 was a welcome proposition. That's why Spectre turned out to be such a big disappointment. Yes, the single take opening is spectacular, but there's a pretty sizable drop in quality from that point on, starting with the whiny and nasal Sam Smith song, which might be the worst Bond title song of the franchise's 53-year history. Spectre is frustratingly by the numbers and infuriatingly overlong. It recreates the old Bond formula beat-by-beat while adding practically nothing new to the first true disappointment of the Daniel Craig Bond films. Craig is NOT Roger Moore, and a modern Bond movie had no business being this tedious.
This Sundance favorite was more of a disappointment than an overall terrible film. But when it disappointed, it went the extra mile into atonal awfulness. Dope is an energetic but misguided comedy that takes its brilliantly unique premise and runs it to the ground with an unnecessarily convoluted, predictable, and worst of all, bland plot. There's an undeniable level of freshness to the characters and the performances. On the other hand, the pacing and the overall execution are sloppy, and there's an insistence on cramming in four movies' worth of material into a single project in a desperate attempt to impress the audience right out of the gate. It's surprising to find out that director Rick Famiyuma isn't a young first time director. He's middle aged, has been working for almost two decades, and Dope is his fourth feature. There are baffling freshman mistakes here that a director with his experience should have been able to avoid.
Sci-fi wunderkind Neil Blomkamp's decline in the eyes of his fans continues with Chappie. Even though I'm still a big fan of Elysium, another Blomkamp flick hated by fans of his impressive feature District 9, I have to agree with said fans this time around when it comes to Blomkamp's disastrously misguided hard-R remake of Short Circuit. Chappie uses the same visual approach and story structure of District 9 on a sloppy and unbalanced screenplay full of unreliable world building that constantly reinvents itself for the convenience of the plot, as well as irritating characters whose goals and motivations keep changing arbitrarily.
Blackhat offers a million dollar direction to a screenplay that's not worth ten cents. For a cyber action/thriller that's supposed to exploit groundbreaking cyber terrorism tech in our overwhelmingly digital age, its story, characters and performances are all made out of old-school wood. This is the kind of derivative 90s dumb action material that Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson would have creamed over. But in 2015, this dreck is way under Michael Mann's either excellent (Heat, The Insider), or at least solid (Collateral, Public Enemies) standards. Simply put, it makes Miami Vice look like a masterpiece. Blackhat represents a huge disappointment for a director of Mann's reputation. It looks like he woke up every day thinking "How can I make this terrible scene remotely watchable?" Why did he pick this uninspired material in the first place? Did the producers get their hands on some pictures of Mann raping various barnyard animals and forced him to shoot this screenplay word-by-word?
6- Cop Car:
Can anyone tell me why Sony executives were convinced to hire young indie director Jon Watts to helm the next Spider-Man reboot after watching the utterly forgettable straight-to-VOD-level dreck that is Cop Car? Watts' film has enough narrative content to fill a 20-minute short, anything more proves to be overkill. Even then, the premise and execution are not unique or creative enough to have the project stand out, even as a short. As a feature that also makes the colossal mistake of intentionally stripping away any useful plot exposition or character development in an annoying attempt at rawness, it has so much filler that a ballpark hotdog would criticize it for not having enough substance. There are some attempts at Coen Brothers-style dark humor in Cop Car, but the lack of interesting characters and a tangible story, as well as a paint-by-numbers indie crime drama conclusion, eventually destroys what little goodwill the film has left.
5- Project Almanac:
Project Almanac is a wholly misguided mess that attempts to cross Back to the Future with The Butterfly Effect for the Instagram generation. It was released under Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company and Bay's one of the film's producers, so of course it takes place in a fantasy high school where every single person, even the nerds, look like models. Regardless of the fact that the film is about a group of young scientists who build a time machine, every single male character acts like a dumb jock who only cares about getting laid, and every female character is a bimbo who's just there to look hot. Project Almanac is a waste of time even if you're a high school senior looking for a vapid wish fulfillment movie. The acting is stiff, the screenplay lacks focus and energy, and the execution is incredibly bland and predictable.
4- Taken 3:
We get yet another sequel to a fairly generic action flick that wasn't that special to begin with. Whoop-de-doo! Everyone, especially Liam Neeson, looks fatigued and wholly disinterested this time around. It's hard to blame Neeson: there are only so many times a sexagenarian can karate chop a horde of bad guys' necks and deliver shamelessly bland and melodramatic lines before he gets really tired of the whole ordeal. With an obligation to write a third movie around such unmemorable characters, Taken 3 was either going to become a Die Hard or a Fugitive knock-off. I guess screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen flipped a coin, and decided to rip off the latter. What we end up with is a bloated bore with an uneven pace, a wholly predictable antagonist, and a lead who looks like he'd rather be at a Darkman convention.
3- Jupiter Ascending:
The Star Wars prequels are alive and well, thanks to the Wachowski Siblings' hackneyed, self-important and insanely incoherent cinematic new age sci-fi turd. As someone with an unhealthy fetish for astoundingly bad movies, I could have had so much fun with Jupiter Ascending if I watched it at home, drunk or stoned, amongst equally drunk or stoned friends, loudly heckling the hell out of its many baffling and condescending choices. Unfortunately, I saw it at a press screening, where yelling obscenities at the screen is fairly frowned upon. We get acting so awkward that it reaches The Room levels. The action set pieces, where you can watch money burn on screen, are Star Wars prequels bad in design and execution, while being Michael Bay bad in incoherent editing. Every single action scene revolves around Channing Tatum's Mog character (Half man, half dog. He's his own best friend) rescuing Mila Kunis' wooden damsel in distress using his Gungan shield and Xanadu-inspired hover roller skates. Hilariously awful, or just awful? You decide.
2- Terminator Genisys:
Imagine a ten-year-old bratty kid of a multi-billionaire a-hole whose favorite movies are The Terminator and Terminator 2, who decides to use the 200 million dollars he got from daddy as a birthday present to make his own Terminator movie. He takes his favorite moments from the first two films and awkwardly inserts them into his pet project, not having any idea what those moments in the original movies meant to the story as a whole, while also ignoring the fact that the excellent build ups and the great screenplays around those moments were what made the first two Terminators so special to begin with. Watching Terminator Genisys is such an experience; the whole torturous ordeal feels like we're witnessing the most expensive YouTube fan film ever made. Terminator Genisys is beyond bad, it's an embarrassment. And you thought we hit the bottom of the barrel with Terminator 3 and Salvation? Apparently, that barrel is deeper than any of us could have imagined.
1-Welcome to Me:
Welcome to Me might not have been as technically inept or creatively bankrupt as some of the other disasters on this list, but it's my single most unpleasant film watching experience of 2015. An insanely ill-advised attempt at creating a quirky comedy around mental illness turns into a vile, mean-spirited, pretentious, and condescending wannabe edgy indie that made me want to staple my eyelids shut while repeatedly stabbing my eardrums in a futile attempt to make the pain go away. Welcome to Me runs on two polar opposite tonal gears that completely cancel each other out, making it as intellectually appealing as staring at color bars for an hour and a half. It points and laughs at Kristen Wiig's narcissistic and emotionally unbalanced character with such juvenile glee, that 6th grade schoolyard bullies would have asked the film to dial down the meanness a notch. Then it points its shamelessly hypocritical finger at the audience for even thinking about laughing at such a cartoon character because guess what, she's a real person with feelings, and we're awkwardly in heartfelt drama territory now. Suck it, consistency!