Here it is – the article you like to read and I hate to write. And the reasons I dislike this task so much, the reason I put it off every year is simple. Though I try to be entertaining and never hold back in my reviews, I take no delight in knocking someone down. Films are put together by a group of artists. Each work is the result of a collaboration consisting of hundreds of participants, thousands of work hours and usually millions of dollars. A lot of them don’t work and if we’re going to be honest, some of them are so heinous they need to be called out on their sins. But that doesn’t mean I have to smirk like a jackass while pointing out their shortcomings.
On a more personal note, I also don’t enjoy reliving the absolute worst film experiences of the previous year. Old feelings of boredom, frustration and anger all bubble up when I recall the absolute worst of the worst. It’s not a casual thing for me. While I will never be one of those frothing internet commenters that take every disappointment like a personal assault, the fact is that a lot of these films caused me great pain.
You might notice a number of prime contenders absent from this list, which has been knocked down from ten to a simple five. 2015 was a difficult year for a number of reasons. My time being more limited than usual, I found myself actively avoiding films I didn’t think I could view favorably. Hence, while Happy Madison does make an appearance on the list, I avoided such mainstays of worst-of-2015 lists such as PIXELS, THE COBBLER, JOE DIRT 2 and RIDICULOUS 6. Also absent are SUPER FAST, UNITED PASSIONS, ENTOURAGE… you get the picture.
What I can say is that I hope to be a lot more open-minded during 2016. But in order to get on with the next year, we must finally leave the previous year in the dust.
And now for the ugly, unenviable task as I relive the Worst Films of 2015.
5. JUPITER ASCENDING – It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen JUPITER ASCENDING and whenever I think about it, my head hurts. You can’t fault it for ambition as it contains a lot of ideas; almost all of which are executed poorly. Virtually every aspect of the plot should make your jaw drop open. How else to explain a film where Mila Kunis (a talented actress who is miscast and burdened with a ridiculous script) plays a Romanian maid who is actually a space princess being pursued by various aliens – Roswell aliens, dog aliens, alt-rock bounty hunter aliens, Merchant Ivory aliens, etc. – because she is the reincarnation of an alien queen who holds property rights to planet Earth? Oh, and then there’s the idea that lifeforms are harvested via alien intervention for their immortality-granting powers. And did I mention that Kunis is protected by swarms of bees since the film tells us, “Bees can naturally sense royalty?” We should also not forget the scene when Kunis tries to seduce her lupine bodyguard (Channing Tatum on laser skates – not a typo) by pleading, “I love dogs! I’ve always loved dogs!”
That’s far from the only unintentionally funny line in the movie. As I said in my review, “Every line… sounds like a quirky sci-fi novel which has been translated into another language, only to have that translation translated into another language and then have the whole thing belched back out into English via Google Translate.”
And special mention should be given to Eddie Redmayne, who turns in one of the worst performances imaginable. Alternating between barely audible whispers and bombastic shouting, some have argued that perhaps he was delivering a terrible performance on purpose. I personally doubt that. Besides, what is the greater crime – turning in a disastrously ill-conceived performance or deliberately sabotaging a major motion picture for your own amusement?
4. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY – No other 2015 film suffered from such an extreme identity crisis as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Oh sure, it all has the sheen of Hollywood film, with everything made to look pristine. But at the heart of it, this film is completely mistaken about what it is and seems to be unfamiliar with the ingredients to its own recipe.
Far from having any romantic chemistry, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan seem to be barely tolerating one another’s presence. The film is about dominant-submissive relationships and instead presents the story of a woman giving up any shred of independence to a wealthy stalker in exchange for gifts and small tokens of affection. There is no spark between them, and I have a feeling that if Mr. Grey were a bartender rather than a billionaire, the ridiculously named Anastasia Steele would have nothing to do with him.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is about kink and yet the kink on display is strictly amateur hour. It’s about sex and I guess it shows sex, but even that seems a little too genteel considering the subject matter. And most damningly, it’s an erotic romance that never stops playing like a psychological horror film.
3. FANTASTIC FOUR – From a film that doesn’t know what it is to a film that doesn’t know what it should be. People will be arguing who is ultimately to blame for the FANTASTIC 4 debacle for years. Did the problems originate with director Josh Trank or with a nervous and interfering studio? I personally suspect a combination of the two. Whomever we decide to point our fingers at, it does not change the fact that this is one of the most thoroughly wrongheaded and mishandled comic adaptations of the last twenty years.
It’s a superhero film in which there are barely any superheroics. The Thing, a character known for his loud and joshing attitude is presented as a soft-spoken and traumatized monster with a body count higher than Michael Myers. Despite being a genius, Susan Storm is relegated to the sidelines and is not even invited on the expedition in which our heroes get their powers. The color palette is grey, the lighting dim, and the aura depressing. The quest for overly serious superhero movies reaches its nadir here, with an entertainment film that thinks itself too good to entertain.
I knew this film was not produced by Marvel when I went to see it. And that’s fine, there have been good and bad films that didn’t originate from Marvel themselves (though far more of the latter). The rest of the audience apparently didn’t get the memo however. When there was no post-credits sequence to be seen, one person yelled out, “Hey, that’s not like a Marvel movie!” I yelled back, “No, it sure as hell wasn’t.”
2. SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! – Oh, now wait just a minute. Selecting this one is a bit of an obvious and unfair choice, isn’t it? After all, aren’t the SHARKNADO movies supposed to be cheesy and bad? Yes they are, and if you look at my 2013 and 2014 wrap-ups, you’ll note that the first two SHARKNADO films actually got mentioned in my Best of lists. Those films were fun and breezy and seemed to know how to have a good time.
But with SHARKNADO 3, there seems to have been a shift in attitude, particularly on the part of director Anthony Ferrante. The original SHARKNADO was a b-movie that gained unprecedented publicity and fascination from an internet that couldn’t believe the outrageousness of the concept. The sequel continued that tradition. This is the third go round for Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin and this time, they seem to be resentful of the franchise they helped birth and the people who watch them.
Unlike the original films, this SHARKNADO goes through all the beats, cramming even more crazy instances (“Sharks in space!”) and celebrity cameos. But the attitude has changed. Far from being an amusing and campy twist on the disaster flicks, SHARKNADO 3 is a cynical piece of so-called entertainment. They are no longer laughing with the audience; they are laughing at them, then kicking them repeatedly, spitting on them and angrily damning their existence. SHARKNADO 3 is a depressing, demoralizing and infuriating experience that ends with the nastiest, most mean-spirited cliffhanger of the year.
1. PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 – The film that nearly broke me. The original PAUL BLART may not have the highest pedigree, but it was a harmless and good-natured if ultimately forgettable film. Say goodbye to all that as PAUL BLART 2 becomes as lazy and egregiously unfunny as any other film from the odious Happy Madison Productions.
This film played it so safe that it didn’t even have the decency to deliver on several of the jokes it had set up, as if merely presenting the possibility of something amusing would be enough. It’s not. Unless a joke can end in a pratfall or one of Kevin James’ self-deprecating grimaces, this film doesn’t bother trying. Every joke that the film does bother with is delivered as if subtlety is a mortal sin. It’s as if the filmmakers were trying to shake the audience, screaming “DON’T YOU GET IT? IT’S A COMEDY! IT’S FUNNY! WHY AREN’T YOU LAUGHING! COME ON, LAUGH! HA! HA! HA!”
But I am probably giving the filmmakers too much credit by suggesting they are as mentally damaged as I felt after having to sit through this mess of a movie. The truth is more banal and ultimately much worse. In all likelihood, they aren’t incompetent, they didn’t care. They didn’t care about making a good movie and they didn’t care about their audience.