Through several changes in address as well as living overseas with erratic cinema release dates, for the first time in years I took extra special consideration with my viewing selections. While universally panned films like Suicide Squad, Norm of the North, or Dirty Grandpa are conceivably terrible, I dodged each one, thankfully missing these which have been included in almost every single online retrospective. My pick are the worst films I saw in 2016, and though many people may balk at their inclusion due to their unremarkableness (or even question why their favourites could be considered ‘worst’ by someone else), in the small number of those I watched which were bad, these made me more frustrated and drowsy over all others.
A film that came with more baggage than an airport, Kevin Feig’s re-imagining of Ghostbusters suffered at the keyboards and mouths of untold numbers of crybaby rejects, citing that a cast of women are ruining Hollywood, their childhoods, and their gender. For this, I’m glad: I hope their lives are ruined by a film that they could quite simply just ignore. Regardless of these crybabies, of which I will continue to refer to them, the 2016 version of the beloved original worked on very few levels. Everyone in the cast is totally fine, and are entirely befitting of their characters but aside from some brief flickers of chemistry amongst the core four, it plays out more like a showcase of individual comedy showcases rather than a team effort. Each of them phoned in their roles to become cookie-cutter city-saviours that spouted one-liners and delivered quirky facial expressions by the onerous bucket. Feig’s lack of expertise in directing action is so blatant, too, that these summer set-piece spectacles only harm the film: where there is supposed to be excitement, we instead get a lack of coherency with some hideously shot battles (taking the crown from Nolan’s The Dark Knight series) and an over-reliance on ghostly CGI. With a smattering of annoying cameos and hindering callbacks, Ghostbusters can’t escape the shadow of its predecessor, no matter how hard it tries. While my opinion is barely positive, I’m glad Feig’s attempt exists to annoy all those fucking crybabies whose lives were tarnished and memories irrevocably destroyed by something so harmless as a Hollywood production.
Original review here.
When done right, horror anthologies can be a great deal of gruesome fun (see: Trick ‘R’ Treat, V/H/S/2 and even Wild Tales). Twisting, spiraling narratives that loop back to a central core of depravity are entertaining if the creators understand the rules and limitations of the universe they’re developing. Southbound – following the likes of The ABCs of Death and Tales of Hallowe’en – is so horribly inept at weaving a coherent, thrilling story that by the time the first segment heads into its second with such blunt force, it already outstays its welcome. Every plot here is tonally disparate, each with an off-balance amount of dark comedy that’s not only utterly humourless but is also poorly timed and executed, with sudden shifts from horror to personal drama that work even less. Mather Zickel’s story of a lone driver involved in an accident on the hellish road is film’s strongest segment, but even this doesn’t gel with anything before or after it: the resolution of his story negates everything that came before by being puzzlingly tenuous and downright frustrating. In the end, it’s simply awful people doing awful things, all on a road that sends the characters on a collision course with absolutely no regard for logic. Southbound had short bursts of intrigue, so it ought not to have been so bad, but make no mistake about it: it really was.
Original review here.
3. The Jungle Book
There’s not much in Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book that has stayed with me since seeing it upon release, and considering it’s a story that’s been told and retold, that goes part way to suggest just how bland his adaptation was. The visuals were an undeniable feast: beautiful, sweeping vistas and stunning water effects were most definitely a highlight, and the cast of beasts was genuinely incredible to behold, but that was also part of the issue. As the animals and the backdrops felt so naturalistic and real, this belittled the rest of the film, (namely the script, the detached voice-acting, and Neel Seethi’s stiff, vacant turn as Mowgli). Seethi’s interactions with Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Baloo (Bill Murray) et al. were consistently tedious to watch thanks to his expressionless delivery and hollow reactions, and the often stale rejoinder’s from the adult voice cast seemed uninterested in their characterisations. The Jungle Book also has an identity crisis: is it a musical? a kids adventure? a timeless allegory of man’s destruction of nature? It’s kind of all three, yet at the same time it never fully sticks to any of these routes: just when you think it’s not going to be musical, there comes a weirdly uninspiring rendition of ‘I Wan’Na Be Like You’. It’s so confused with itself that I don’t think even the creators knew what to do with it, and while it’s a major step forward in digital effects (the team at MPC are definitely deserving when it comes to recognition) Favreau takes on Rudyard Kipling’s enduring story with a flat, characterless 100 minutes that I couldn’t wait to be over.
Original review here.
2. Goodnight Mommy
Goodnight Mommy came with a baffling amount of early festival buzz and great word of mouth but was nothing more than yet another hideously forced torture-porn horror masquerading as an arthouse ghost story. Revealing its secrets within the first minutes was a bad enough move, but to have a film so deliriously in love with its own concept and ignore the audiences’ understandings of the threadbare plots was simply unforgivable. Horribly filmed, stupidly acted and depressingly mechanical, Goodnight Mommy was infuriating for its entire runtime, so much so that I had to watch it in three sittings. Featuring absurd stretches of believability (a wiry boy dragging adult bodies through a house; two Red Cross visitors’ complete inability to recognise the situation around them; appalling dream sequences) and across-the-board awful characters, this German language horror is a spectacularly mindless waste of some talented cinematography and sound mixing: both of which are the only noteworthy attributes of the whole thing. A shambles from start to finish, Goodnight Mommy – aka Ich Seh, Ich Seh – is an insipid mess.
Original review here.
1. The Birth of a Nation
It seems almost antagonistic to place a film like this in the top spot, but since seeing The Birth of a Nation almost 4 months ago it’s been hard to think of a film that put me in as dismal a mood as this. Nate Parker writes, directs and stars in this story about Nat Turner, an enslaved preacher who led a rebellion in the early part of the 19th century, with a whiff of pomposity and arrogance that’s carried through this semi-true, convenience-laden wreck. There was something about watching a character such as Turner (played by the aloof Parker) go through automated story beats without so much as a look in from those affected by his actions that bothered me incessantly: there’s almost no time devoted to any character other than himself, so when the film does take a pause from the needlessly provocative acts of torture and floggings, there’s a chasm of human emotion that should be filled. Knowing full well that this atrocious era of history comes loaded with a deep sadness, Parker takes the smug route and centres himself in every scene, regardless of narrative importance or necessity, in doing so does a major disservice to a story that certainly needed to be told, but definitely by someone with more care for the history than for their own career trajectory. It’s no doubt a sad story (and one that I can’t possibly comprehend in its entirety) but from the airless first act, I was counting down the minutes until I could watch something else.
Short review here.
As of this moment, I’ve still yet to see the worst of the worst that 2016 threw up, but some dishonourable mentions are of course included: films that were bad in the most general sense, but have been so aggravatingly dull that it bears no difference to my viewing year. Those are: Sausage Party (Seth Rogen and co. go full frat-boy in ditching smart humour in favour of flat crudity); Ride Along 2 (the chemistry from the first is passed over with rote comedy that frequently fails to land); The Invitation (a great set up and finale sandwiches a tedious drama that goes from fine to awful in a moments notice); The Eyes of My Mother (bleak, unforgiving, and staggeringly dumb, this monochrome horror offered very little aside from aesthetics); The Ones Below (bloated plot revelations and hysterical women tropes hampered this at first decent thriller); Hail, Caesar! (the Coen Brothers’ hubris gets the better of them in their stuffy ode to filmmaking).
BFSR Award illustration header by cal.con.
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