For the third year in a row we take our podcast and put it to the page.
Here are our lists for the worst films of 2016.
Enjoy! And if you agree or disagree feel free to let us know!
The 9th film in the X-Men series should have been a no-brainer: coming off the critical (and financial) success of the previous installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past, the film brought back the director, the screenwriter, most of the cast, had a great actor playing the villain, and was introducing its younger version of some of its most popular mutants. And yet we were given a mess. The dialogue was stilted and under-developed. The plot made no sense (Apocalypse can choose whoever he wants to be his horsemen and it’s these people). Its new characters were tossed to the side to show us Magneto getting angry and lifting stuff AGAIN! And for good measure we had an extended sequence that did nothing to further the plot of the characters just so Wolverine could stab some people. Listen, I’m not a huge fan of this franchise in general, but the audience that is deserves much better. Oh, and can we stop teasing “THIS IS THE X-MEN TEAM YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. TUNE IN NEXT TIME TO SEE THEM IN ACTION!,” only to have the next film be about the team finally getting together?
Alright, people have torn this film apart at length so I’m gonna just run through some stuff that bothered me. We have to see Martha and Thomas Wayne die again. People in Wayne Tower have to wait for Bruce Wayne to say they can leave while the city is being destroyed. The line, “I’m not a woman, I’m a reporter.” The sexualizing of Lois Lane (and therefore Amy Adams) in a bathtub for no reason. Clark is forced to cover sports at the Daily Planet even though they probably have a sports division and he does not come from a sports background. Gal Gadot was great but was given nothing to do outside of her fight scene. They’re only fighting because of a misunderstanding therefore stripping the fight (and the GODDAMN TITLE) of it’s relevance and its “YEAH! FIGHT,” attitude and instead giving a sad “NO! WAIT! TALK IT OUT! STOP FIGHTING OR DIANE LANE WILL DIE!” attitude. Doomsday was boring. And the gross, overly dramatic ending. The grieving over a supposedly dead character is rendered completely useless because: A) Of course he’s not dead dead, B) he can’t be dead because this whole movie is about setting up a universe so he can’t be dead, C) of course he’s not dead because we’re not stupid. DC has a long way to go. And not just to catch up to Marvel. They have a long way to go to catch up to anything resembling effort or quality.
Light on plot, heavy on spectacle only works when the spectacle is interesting. Warcraft believes it’s interesting. It has a complicated plot, it doesn’t really introduce its characters, it believes an audience’s interest in action is rooted in the action itself as opposed to the purpose of said action. It has so much confidence in itself that it gives us title cards for the various kingdoms (or cities, or realms, whatever) as if we’re going to want to keep track of these places. I understand the familiarity the millions of players of the online game might have in said locales or plot points, but Warcraft seems to think its job is done after that. How about giving us a plot we can follow? How about crafting characters we can relate to and care about? How about rooting your actions scenes in emotion and consequence so we care? How about getting to the more interesting points of your story now instead of teasing them for a sequel we might never see? No? Okay.
Just simply a waste. What a cast this is. What a great performance Will Smith gives. And yet we are subjected to a nearly insulting film. I mean, this is a mean group of people. Saying they’re helping their friend who is about one misplaced domino away from suicide by attempting to screw him out of his own company. Then you have the angels or spirits and all those twists. This is a film that is trying to be so clever, so meaningful, so important that it forgets to be sincere. Collateral Beauty instead comes across as a vanity project. The film is so overcrowded with plot points that everyone’s storyline must be finished in three scenes. And the emotional payoff not only makes no sense but threatens to undermine what came before it. Which wasn’t much. Everyone involved in this film can and will do better. But Collateral Beauty for all its intentions comes across as just cruel. Not only to its characters but to its audience.
It’s very apparent this film was butchered by a studio so afraid and desperate for a crowd-pleasing hit. The entire first half hour has 48 top 40 songs playing to introduce us to most (NOT ALL!) of the cast. The flashbacks and Joker interludes are haphazardly taped into the final product. And oh look, it’s Batman. But let’s say David Ayer got to make the movie he wanted. This would still be a story about the government deciding that the best way to fight Superman (and the inevitable witch god thing) is to bring together people who are either regular people who shoot very well or are only good for close combat. Why? Why are these the people they’re so sure are capable of stopping Superman-like threats? They don’t even stop the villain of this movie without a bomb. Then you talk about the fact that the film just goes from A to B to C with nothing really ever developing or changing (besides the occasional helicopter crash and them wandering further into the city) and this movie would have probably been bad without Warner Bros. influence. But influence they did and the movie goes from bad to one of the worst of the year.
There isn’t much I can say about Gods of Egypt. The movie looked pretty good. The story was fine. But one of the worst mistakes a film, especially a film like this, can make is give the audience something boring, uninteresting, and bland. I don’t have much to say about why Gods of Egypt is the 5th worst film of 2016. And that’s exactly the reason.
I loved Zoolander. I own it on DVD. My mom and I have fond memories of it. And here is Zoolander 2: a great cast, a great team of writers, and Ben Stiller’s first straight comedic directorial effort since Tropic Thunder. And yet, what should have been a simple crowd pleasing follow-up was somehow turned into a completely jaded, pretentious, and unrecognizable film. There is no resemblance, save for the cast and characters, to the film that came before. There is something so inherently stilted about Zoolander 2. From its shoddy direction (with its glossy, abstract, and lifeless design) to its humorless and vapid dialogue and its ambitionless mission, this is a completely uninspired affair. This is a misguided disaster in every way imaginable (with the exception of Will Ferrell who does his absolute best). Lost is the first film’s flimsy, goofy charm. What we were given is a self congratulatory work of indulgence. Ben Stiller, John Hamburg, Nicholas Stoller, Justin Theroux, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, and Kristen Wiig are all very talented people. Which is what makes Zoolander 2 even worse.
Independence Day: Resurgence is so bad that it retroactively makes one question Independence Day. Sure, the original had groundbreaking special effects and some killer sequences. But let’s run through this: we have an alien invasion with a city being destroyed, we have a big presidential speech by Bill Pullman, we have a stupid subplot involving a family, we have an underused Vivica A. Fox, we have an alien communicating by grabbing someone by the throat, and we have Judd Hirsch. Is it possible that Independence Day only worked because Will Smith is a fucking movie star? Were we all blinded by his superhero-like charisma? Either way, Independence Day: Resurgence is just garbage. A plot that if even a second is given to think about completely falls apart (WE DID NOT IN 20 YEARS DEVELOP A SPACE STATION ON THE MOON, BUILD IT, TRAIN PEOPLE TO WORK IN IT, AND HAVE IT RUN AS IF IT’S BEEN OPEN FOR YEARS), dialogue that is classic Emmerich (“He’s meeting the President and I’m stuck on the moon.”), action sequences that are completely underwhelming, and a sense of fun that is completely gone (Liam Hemsworth peeing on a spaceship < Will Smith sucker punching an alien). Characters are wasted. Moments go by with no momentum. There is nothing in Independence Day: Resurgence to hold onto. Nothing. And the film makes the mistake that several films are making in our current MUST BE A FRANCHISE era: promising a story that is far more interesting for the sequel that we’ll never see. If you are planning a franchise with multiple sequels and while planning the films you have the thought, “Oh, wait till we get to this.” NO. STOP. Make “this” now. Give us everything you have first. That way, we as an audience feel like you value our time. Independence Day: Resurgence cares not about your time, your feelings, or your enjoyment. But how could it when its last line is, said in complete earnest, “Time to kick some alien ass!”
Here is a perfect example of just a crude movie. Crude for the sake of crude. There is no edge here. No risks being taken. This is just bodily fluids being thrown on the screen trying to convince you that this is fun (note: bodily fluids are not thrown at the screen). Zac Efron is called a lesbian for not wanting to have fun. Aubrey Plaza’s only goal is to have sex. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is here to be made fun of for being black and gay and to have Robert De Niro stand up for him because he can’t stand up for himself. Julianne Hough is the stereotypical uptight wife (She hates fun, has never had fun, will never have fun, and of course, has cheated. Oh, and she cares about her wedding too much because girls, am I right?). AND there is an entire scene dedicated to how funny it would be if Zac Efron was mistaken for a child molester. I mean really, guys. This can’t be how we see comedy in 2016.
London Has Fallen is a movie that is dangerous. Here is a movie that blatantly calls for America to help police the world. Here is a movie that explicitly promotes xenophobia and hatred. Here is a movie that actually contains the line “Go back to Fuckheadistan,” said proudly by our hero. This is ugly. Without going into why the plot makes no sense (it would be impossible to not only carry out these attacks but prevent the police or army from intervening afterward), why the performances are terrible (Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart’s friendship is so forced it’s uncomfortable), why the dialogue is terrible (“I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck.”) this is the most potentially harmful movie of the year. London Has Fallen promotes a one-sided hate and stunning hypocrisy woven into a incredibly conventional action film. It is the grossest film of the year, it is the most racist film of the year, it is most disturbing film of the year, and without a doubt the worst film of the year.
I can’t pretend that my inherent bias against Disney’s oppressive onslaught of live-action remakes isn’t shining through a bit here, but that’s not the only reason Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book opens my list of the Worst Films of 2016. I liked Cinderella, after all. And I have to admit that The Jungle Book is not without its vocal and visual charms. But its biggest failing, while also possibly being its only major one, was too big to ignore: that kid they got to play Mowgli was just awful. I don’t want to spend too many words shitting on a little kid’s efforts, so I won’t belabor the point, but every scene he was in harshly eroded any good will I had toward the movie. And he was in every scene.
And I was so excited for this one, too. The Girl on the Train had all the potential in the world to be a pulpier, sexier, slightly-worse-but-still-good Gone Girl. The pins were all set up, the bumpers were in place, and they even had one of those big metal frames that rolls the ball in a perfectly straight line for you. And yet, against all odds, in the face of everyone who told them they couldn’t, they rolled an ugly, gross, dirty gutter ball. Two lanes over. Emily Blunt’s alcoholic, amnesia-raddled protagonist was the exact opposite of fun and in exactly the wrong movie to be an interesting character. A couple of scenes involving a bathtub and a corkscrew are shockingly disgusting enough to offend my sensibilities, which is, to put it mildly, hard. It’s such a swing and a miss in every respect that I can’t even be bothered to carry the same sports metaphor throughout this blurb.
To call Collateral Beauty a movie is a stretch. It’s a collection of scenes that kind of form a semi-coherent narrative, so it technically counts, but just barely. Just by a little. Watching it is kind of like biting into a Twinkie and finding a pickle in the middle. Beneath the spongy exterior, you expect to find a creamy center of Will Smith learning about the meaning of love and loss through the support of his friends and three well-meaning ghosts. But what you’re shocked to actually find is the crunch of a movie that primarily stars Edward Norton and the tangy plot of three fiends trying to wrest control of The Company from their grieving friend, like a dramatic Billy Madison. The parts are fine by themselves, but they don’t belong together, and the thought that somebody would combine them all in that way on purpose and present it to the world for consumption is unsettling.
It’s hard to believe Warcraft cost as much money as it did. Where did they spend their $160m, exactly? Ben Foster is arguably the most famous star, so they didn’t spend it on casting. The CGI looks fine until you put it next to actual humans like 90% of the movie does, so it didn’t go towards impressive visuals. The story is broad and generic and confusing, so they didn’t pony up for a good script. Despite the large budget, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Warcraft is “cheap.”
The Purge: Election Year is a bad movie made worse by all the better movies it could have been instead. There are so many scenarios that could be interesting to explore in this world, that would have the added benefit of distracting from how utterly nonsensical the central premise of the Purge universe is. But the franchise seems dead-set on going no deeper than, “Oh no, I’m wandering the streets of the city on Purge night. I hope I don’t get Purged, though I most surely will.”
It almost feels excessive to keep beating up on Suicide Squad at this point. DC’s latest colossal creative failure (I stress creative, since it still made boatloads of money) just does not make any sense from the word go. 0% of these people belong on a team designed to save the world from an evil Superman. There’s no reason to send this team of mercenaries on a mission that you’re willing to send the army on anyway. Where was Batman or The Flash when this gesticulating witch was going to destroy the world with her Machine? The whole thing falls apart on a fundamental level, even before the studio had a chance to jump in and somehow make it worse.
It doesn’t really make any sense why X-Men: Apocalypse was as bad as it was. So much of it was retreat from First Class and Days of Future Past that you would expect it to be tiresome by now, and it was, but that wasn’t all. Everything they retread was also done much, much worse than it was the first time around. Nothing exemplifies the problems with this movie (and the X-Men franchise as a whole, but that’s another discussion) more than the appearance of everyone’s favorite mutant, Wolverine. He had a fun little cameo in the first movie and was central to the plot of the second, so he made sense there. But despite having nothing at all to do with this movie, they still had to shoehorn in a half-hour cameo that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing other than letting them say Hugh Jackman’s in it. That time could’ve been spent building their new stars to replace Lawrence/McAvoy/Fassbender in the next movie (which they didn’t do) or developing an even mildly interesting or motivated villain (which they didn’t have). Instead, it was wasted.
It’s been almost a year, and I’m still a little offended that this movie even exists. DC is trying to jumpstart their own Marvel-style EU as fast as possible. Batman and Superman are unquestionably the anchors of that potential franchise. There’s no, no, no way that the Powers That Be were going to let either of them lose a fight this early on, and there’s no way to satisfyingly end a fight between them without having one of them lose. That’s the whole point of a Batman vs. Superman movie. That’s the thing they tried to sell us all on. Who would win? They did it deliberately even though everyone involved knew that we would get no resolution to that question. And they did it awfully. And they spent damn near three hours doing it. So fuck them.
Let Independence Day: Resurgence be a lesson to movie studios everywhere. If you want to make a sequel to a beloved 20-year-old blockbuster…well, first of all, don’t. Just don’t. But if you have to – like, if you physically can’t stop yourself – consider why the first one was good. Independence Day, for instance, starred Will Smith at the height of his powers. He was fun and exciting and charismatic, and the movies he was in followed suit. When he tells you he doesn’t want to do your new one, maybe take a second to pause and reflect. When you decide to ignore that warning sign and just replace him, maybe try your hardest to do so with another star presence. When the best you can do to find a replacement is not only not charismatic or charming, but actively and aggressively uncharismatic and entirely devoid of charm, just stop. Cut your losses and walk away. You’ll be fine. Or not. Release your shitty movie. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Gerard Butler is the damn worst. Every movie his face is in is terrible. Just terrible. And he stars in all of them. To call his filmography mediocre would be the most generous compliment anyone had ever given. It’s possible London Has Fallen sucked so badly for other reasons. Maybe it was the incredibly implausible plot involving wave after wave of terrorists infiltrating the entirety of London law enforcement in just two years. Maybe it was the uncomfortable indifference the movie showed toward killing a ton of human beings. Maybe it was the not-so-infrequent detours the script took in the direction of out and out racism (“Go back to Fuckheadistan!” yells Gerard Butler as he gleefully stabs yet another terrorist in the brain.) But it’s hard to say. Because it stars Gerard Butler. So it probably would’ve been just this bad no matter what.