This is the fifth time I’ve written an end of year Worst Of-type list, and more than one of those previous four years I’ve given thanks that I’m not an actual film critic, just an enthusiastic blogger who can pick and choose what he watches. 2015 saw a shift in that, as I appeared during the course of the year on four different radio shows to talk about film or film-related subjects (two on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and two on Cambridge 105). So for the first time, I’ve found myself watching films “for review purposes”; previously an arty-farty way of trying to justify watching terrible films at the cinema that I fancied seeing and could do so under cover of the blog, but now a situation where I am increasingly offering opinions on the dregs of blockbuster cinema in a vain attempt to stop other people wasting their money.
Last year, I tried to be nice; I tried to give feedback in the most professional style I could. I told the films what they did well, and what they could do better. But, Hollywood and the art house, you didn’t listen. You carried on inflicting terrible films on us all and also expecting us to pay for them. So if you can’t be nice to us, why should I hold back? Here, then, are the ten films most lacking in quality that I dutifully sat through in the hope that you wouldn’t in 2015.
10. Crimson Peak – 4/10
Crimson Peak, rather regrettably giving the acting and directing talent involved, is the film equivalent of one of those glamour models that parade themselves in various states of undress in low quality tabloid newspapers and magazines. Sure, it’s very easy on the eye, but there’s absolutely nothing going on between the ears; it’s difficult to believe a film this brainless emerged from someone who’s delivered the likes of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth in the past. A dashing cast and ravishing sets deliver on Gothic splendour, but they don’t make up for the fact that the script is condescending beyond belief (telling viewers not once, but twice, in the early stages that the main character’s novel is a METAPHOR. DID YOU HEAR ME? A ME-TA-PHOR) and throwing out unsurprising plot developments, clanging dialogue and generally acting stupid for long enough that it hopes you’ll stop caring. A depressing waste of the effort of all concerned.
9. Kill Your Friends – 4/10
It must be difficult for the likes of Nicholas Hoult, cast as the supporting tier in major blockbuster series such as X-Men and Mad Max and only able to become a leading man in smaller fare of the likes of Warm Bodies. But that’s no excuse for signing up to a role in such warmed over, turgid Brit nonsense as this limp adaptation of John Niven’s novel. Coming across as an attempt to mesh early Danny Boyle grittiness and style with the ins and outs of the music industry, it does make the endless parade of music professionals seem shallow and detestable but it never comes close to making them watchable. Oh, and in poorly mimicking Shallow Grave and Trainspotting it does make the film feel like it’s not only twenty years old, but that you’ve been watching it for about that long. Awkward, unfunny and soulless, and hopefully a blip in the careers of all involved.
8. Hotel Transylvania 2 – 4/10
This wasn’t the only animation aimed at younger children to do well at the box office this year aimed at young children which forgot to include any jokes – Minions, I’m looking at you – but it was the most consistent offender in the world of product placement. Sony, when you make a children’s film and you have two animated characters holding photorealistic versions of your phones and discussing how to send texts and to use social media like you’ve made an animated user manual instead of a story, that’s a repugnant level of corporate shilling that you should be ashamed of, but you should be even more ashamed for keeping Adam Sandler in work and lining his pockets with your corporate dollar.
7. Fantastic Four – 4/10
It’s difficult to truly hate Fantastic Four, not least because the terrible earlier films and generally poor word of mouth emanating from the project set expectations so low only limbo dancers could see them, but because it’s such a desperately dull film that it’s incredibly difficult to work up any kind of strong emotions about it. It’s terribly miscast – again – and it’s shot like the lense has been covered in some form of thick industrial grease and the action scenes seem to have ended up on the cutting room floor. Even the touch of producers Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn couldn’t muster up any magic around this one, which will now be quietly buried and forgotten until Fox needs to remake it again to hang on to the rights.
6. Ted 2 – 3/10
I like Seth MacFarlane – he’s got a magnificent singing voice and makes enjoyable cameo appearances in US TV shows from time to time. I also enjoyed the first couple of seasons of Family Guy and some of American Dad wasn’t terrible. But boy, this is. To its credit, it doesn’t try to just rehash the same jokes as the first one, although Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones continues to be employed in a perplexingly unfunny cameo, and that seems symptomatic of many of the problems. The film throws out cultural references and drug jokes in the hope that just making them is funny – it’s really not, especially when some of them are drawn out to the point of having no relevance to the scene in question – and with an overlong plot and a host of wasted acting talent, this becomes a painful watch long before the end. The courtroom scenes don’t convince, even by the low standards of a comedy and please, somebody tell the writers that the ridiculously overlong, ludicrously violent fight sequence became worn out the tenth time Family Guy did it. Seth, stick to the singing, please.
5. Burnt – 3/10
Talking of miscasting, who’s the last person in Hollywood to think of to play a Gordon Ramsey-eseque chef, swearing and bullying his way through the kitchens of Europe? I would suggest that charisma magnet Bradley Cooper would be in the top three. Never as convincing when he’s not turning on the charm, here he’s the soggy bottom to a half-baked attempt to bring Michelin star gastronomy to the big screen. The acting is disinterested, the script is an abomination of clunky exposition – all the more befuddling when it comes from Steven Knight, the writer of Locke, a masterclass in drip-feeding plot – and the food is an afterthought in a film where it should be centre stage. Rather than leaving you salivating about its cuisine, Burnt just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
4. The Bad Education Movie – 3/10
Do you miss the days of the Seventies and Eighties when British TV series would haplessly go on a foreign jaunt to justify a TV movie or cinema release, in the process losing what modicum of charm they had and wandering aimlessly around in the hope of finding their misplaced jokes? Then congratulations, you must be the audience for The Bad Education Movie, a laughter vacuum that takes Jack Whitehall and his class of teenage tearaways, ignores the set-up of the TV series, doesn’t even bother to take them abroad (Cornwall) and then spends ninety minutes plodding through one depressing set-piece after another. I’ve always thought Jack Whitehall was one of this country’s better young comedians, but this has me hastily rethinking that opinion.
3. The Voices – 2/10
I really wanted to like this film. No, scratch that, I wanted to love this film. I hope that Deadpool next year gives Ryan Reynolds the career renaissance he deserves and I have a soft spot for Gemma Arterton as well, but this didn’t do it for me at all. What should have been a delicious black comedy did just too much to elucidate the mental illness aspects and tipped over into something disturbing in an unpleasant way, rather than the entertaining way that it should have been. It pains me to give this such a low mark, and I’m glad it connected with others, but I’m actually even more glad I saw two worse films so this didn’t occupy top spot.
2. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension – 2/10
When a studio announces “this will be the last film in this series”, this should be an alarm bell to any potential audience members that “this will be a shameless excuse in cash grabbing to squeeze the last few grubby dollars out of a decaying franchise before we kick it to the kerb and let vultures swoop in and pick at its rotting corpse while we try desperately to happen upon the latest surprise hit that we’ll strip mine for sequels for years until audiences finally wise up to what we’re doing”. The worst crime committed here was the knots that the script tied itself up in by attempting to link the previous films of the franchise together. As scary as opening a tin of rice pudding and finding out it’s actually rice pudding, and about a fifth as entertaining.
1. Pixels – 2/10
You should go into an Adam Sandler film in hope rather than expectation, for not every Adam Sandler film has been a stomach-churning pox on the face of humanity. Sadly Pixels extinguishes hope, expectation and almost every other positive emotion as it takes a simple concept from a short film and overlays it with terrible jokes, leaden action sequences and misogyny so casual it’s almost difficult to believe it’s happening. Pixels worships at the cult of Adam Sandler and virtually prostrates itself at his feet, and the lack of self control that permits allows the film to descend into a grubby morass of wasted cameos, half-baked ideas and poisonous humour that insults the intelligence of every viewer. At the cinema screening I saw this at, with a reasonably-sized audience, not a single person laughed. Ever. I would suspect many of them haven’t laughed since, traumatised by the memory of this festering scab of a film. File this one under tragedy.
The 10 Least Best Films I Saw In 2014 “WINNER” – Nymph
The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2013 “WINNER” – A Good Day To Die Hard
The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2012 “WINNER” – Seven Psychopaths
The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2011 “WINNER” – Battle: Los Angeles
I set out this year to try to encourage people into the cinema again. As much as anything else, cinema as an experience is enhanced by having company, and I seem to be fortunate in that, by and large, the people who cohabit the cinemas that I attend generally observe the rules of etiquette that you would want, keeping their shoes on, not eating nachos too loudly and generally keeping pretty quiet. But one of my purposes was to encourage others to watch movies by sharing my opinions in the form of reviews, so I thought it would be interesting to see which of my reviews garnered most hits, and so most encouraged others to venture out.
So, here’s the list. If you work out what to make of it, do let me know, as I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a bit odd.
20. Winter’s Bone
19. London River
17. Certified Copy
16. The Expendables
14. The Rebound
13. The Crazies
12. The Illusionist
11. True Legend
10. Black Dynamite
9. Mr. Nice
7. Chico & Rita
6. Wild Target
5. Dark Souls