Saturday, January 2, 2016

BEST And WORST Movies Of 2015

Hey, it's 2016, so what better time to look backward and make a list of The Best And Worst Movies of 2015!

I saw a whopping forty two movies in the cineplex in 2015, very few of which were actually worth watching. Out of that number there were a scant two or three that I'd actually consider good, a ton of mediocre ones, and several that should immediately be shot into the sun.

2015 will go down in cinema history as The Year Of The Stealth Remake. I saw at least five of these in the cineplex last year— movies that are ostensibly sequels, but are really straight up copies of the original. It's a sneaky and underhanded trick on the part of Hollywood, but one that's proven to be very effective. Not to mention lucrative. Why knock yourself out writing a new chapter in a franchise when you can take the original story, wrap it up with a shiny new bow and sit back and watch the money roll in? The sooner this trend dies a well-deserved and horrible death, the better.

As I look back on the movies I reviewed in 2015, I realize I was far too easy on most of them. Many deserved at least a full letter grade lower than the one I gave them. This is a problem I need to work on in the coming year.

OK, on with the list. Needless to say, this is a list of the movies that I saw, so it's entirely possible there were movies even worse or better.

Worst Movie Of 2015
Dear lord, there were so many choices, I don't know where to begin. The cineplex was littered with hundreds of terrible films last year, but there were several that stood out from the pack.

Jennifer Lopez's entry in the "psychotic stalker" genre contains every possible cliche you can think of, and then some. The movie wallows and writhes in this cesspool of cliches so gleefully that part of me wonders if it's supposed to be some kind of subtle parody of the genre.

It's also incredibly choppy and incoherent, as characters appear and are immediately forgotten, and subplots are introduced and then never resolved. I'm convinced this movie was edited with a chainsaw.

I gave it a C, but looking back it deserved a D at best.

Mortdecai
Once again Johnny Depp dons a funny wig and costume along with an outrageous accent in yet another of his string of self-indulgent roles. To say he chews the scenery would be an understatement, as he devours it whole, and with gusto. Unfortunately he seems to be having much more fun playing the part than the audience does watching him.


If the idea of seeing Johnny Depp playing a pretentious English buffoon who says things such as, "I say, good show old chap!" strikes you as hilarious, then you'll likely have a good time. If not, you're in for a very long 106 minutes.

Honestly I remember very little about this film other than the fact that it had zero interest in being even slightly humorous. There's exactly one mildly amusing joke in the entire movie, and the filmmakers seemingly realize this as they repeat it about ten times.

Incredibly I gave it a C+. Why, I have no idea, as I should have given it a D- at the very least.

A tepid horror film that's part Flatliners, part Event Horizon, and far worse than either. 

This film must set some kind of record for jump scares. Practically every scene features a character unexpectedly grabbing someone by the shoulder, or lunging in from behind, or even popping up wearing a pig mask (!). It's as if the director realized the story wasn't the least bit frightening, so he ramped up the quota of jump scares in a flailing effort to shock the audience somehow.

The premise of the film is completely gutted when you realize that people's hearts stop all the time during operations, and not one of them has ever developed psychic powers or dragged a piece of Hell back with them.

It was filmed in 2013 but sat on the shelf until 2015, which is always a red flag. Amazingly I gave it a C+ but I should have given it a D- instead.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
The original film was a surprise hit back in 2009, grossing $146 million against its miniscule $28 million budget. Those figures made a sequel inevitable, but why it took six long years is a mystery.

If you like your comedy bland and largely laugh-free, then this is the movie for you. It does manage to generate a couple of polite chuckles, but they're few and far between.


If you're a Paul Blart fan you'll love this sequel, since it's pretty much a rehash of everything that happened in the first film. Heck, many of the jokes and a lot of the physical comedy from the original get an encore here. I guess the studio thinks if you liked the jokes once, you'll love 'em even more the second time around.

Worst of all, in order for the sequel to work, it has to overwrite the ending of the original, rendering it useless! I gave it a C, but looking back that was far too generous a grade. It deserved at least a D.

The Gallows
Don't feel bad if you've never even heard of this film, much less seen it. I think I was one of the twenty or so people in the country who were unfortunate enough to watch this gem. 

Yet another miserable found footage film, featuring atrocious acting, non-existent production values, amateur camera work, and unlikable characters. The filmmakers practically sprain a hamstring trying to set up Charlie Grimille as the next slasher icon, ala Jason Vorhees or Freddie Krueger. I wouldn't hold my breath expecting to see him again.

If there's a Hell, this is what would play on the TV stations there, twenty four hours a day. I gave it a well-deserved D.

Hitman: Agent 47
Yet another unwanted and unasked for sequel (or remake or reboot, who knows?) to a mediocre movie based on a video game. You'd have just as good a time sitting on the edge of your bed and staring at the floor. Once again I graded a film too high, giving this one a very generous C.

AND THE WINNER FOR WORST MOVIE OF 2015:

It was a really tough choice. The Gallows was a major contender, as it's terrible in every measurable sense. But it had the excuse of an extremely low budget, reportedly just $100,000. You kind of expect a movie to be shite when it cost less than the average home.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Mortdecai didn't have that excuse. Both were major studio releases, with $30 million and $60 million budgets, respectively, so they can't blame their awfulness on a lack of money.

Both are allegedly comedies, but you'd be hard pressed to tell as they're largely laugh-free. When a drama is bad you can at least entertain yourself by laughing at it. But when a comedy's not funny, it's beyond excruciating.

Therefore in a split decision, I award Worst Movie Of 2015 to both Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 AND Mortdecai! Congratulations!

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MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2015
Again, it was tough to narrow the choices down to just a few. So many films showed promise in 2015, only to disappoint audiences as they limped across the screen and thudded to the ground sacks of sour, damp laundry.

Chappie
I had very high hopes for this film, expecting a hard sci-fi tale of artificial intelligence and sharp insight into what makes an entity human. Instead director Neil Blomkamp delivered a half-baked, extremely derivative mess.

Add to that the fact that the characters all act like brain damaged morons and there are plot holes wide enough to fly a 747 through, and you get a disappointing film that feels like it escaped from the Siffy Channel.

Blomkamp made a big splash in 2009 with District 9, but so far each of his subsequent films has been worse than the one before. If he doesn't pull out of his downward spiral soon the only thing he's going to be directing is traffic.

Talk about wasted potential! Brad Bird, who directed the amazing The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, makes an oddly dark, dreary and joyless film about hope and optimism. I wish the scientists of Tomorrowland could make a device that would let me forget I ever saw this dismal film. I gave it a C+.

Another stealth remake. Virtually everything that happens here has an analogue in the original film. Not even the presence of charismatic actor Chris Pratt can pull this one out of the dumpster. I guess there are only so many ways you can tell a story about dinosaurs attacking people on an island. 

We finally get to see the park up and running, which was the one and only good thing about this film.

I've seen the original film twenty or thirty times. I never want to see this one ever again, which should tell you everything you need to know about it. So much potential and hard work wasted...

For some insane reason I gave it a B, which is WAY too high. It deserved a C- at most.

Yet another stealth remake, as this one, through the magic of time travel,  literally revisits scenes from the first one. 

The overly complicated plot completely rewrites the first two movies, which is definitely not a good thing. There's one, and only one plot surprise, and the goddamned movie poster gives it away.

The movie also spends an inordinate amount of time trying to explain why the ageless robotic T-800, played of course by Arnold Schwarzenegger, looks like a sixty year old man. I've been a big fan of this franchise since the beginning, but even I have to admit it's time to terminate it (see what I did there?). I gave it a much too kind B-.

Guillermo del Toro's well made, moody film features amazing production design, but like all his films emphasizes style over substance.

Worst of all it billed itself as an old-school Hammer style horror film, but turned out to be a tepid Gothic romance. Talk about misleading! I felt like I'd been tricked into seeing a film I normally wouldn't have bothered with.

The plot, such as it is, is paper thin, and if you've ever seen even one movie before, you'll spot the "shocking twist" coming down the street from a mile away.

It doesn't help matters that the film isn't the least bit scary either. On the rare occasion we actually do get to see a ghost, they turn out to be helpful and protective rather than menacing! Jesus, if I want to see friendly ghosts I'll cue up a Casper cartoon. I gave it a C+.

AND THE WINNER FOR MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2015:

Not even close. Jurassic World and Terminator Genisys were sub-par retreads of the originals, but for true, undiluted disappointment, one film stood out from the pack.

It's Tomorrowland. The trailer showed us a bright and shiny futuristic world full of jet packs, flying cars and robots. The movie then spends a grand total of about ten minutes in that world, as the rest of the dull and dreary run time is all about the characters trying to get there. And when they finally do get to Tomorrowland, it's old, run down and deserted. Who the hell thought a depressing film about hope was a good idea? Oy.

Congratulations, Disney!

If you're a regular reader of my blog (as millions are), you may be wondering why I didn't put Star Wars: The Force Awakens on this list of disappointing films, since I found it lacking. I didn't add it to the list because I expected to be disappointed by it. Statistically speaking, it was inevitable. Of the six previous films, only two of them have actually been good. That's only 33%. That's less than an F on the grade index!

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BEST MOVIE OF 2015
Sadly, there weren't a lot of contenders for this title.

A simple, thoughtful and intelligent sci-fi film that demands your attention and actually makes you think.  It examines the nature of humanity and consciousness and springs its various traps when you least expect it.

This is the kind of movie the similarly-themed Chappie should have been. Unfortunately it was buried at the box office by the one-two punch of Furious 7 and Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I gave it an A-.

Mad Max: Fury Road
A non-stop, relentless chase film that effortlessly revitalizes the franchise, and the best time I had at the movies all year. 

The entire film is pretty much one long 120 minute action-packed chase scene, broken up by a few very brief intervals of character building. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that! It's a thrilling piece of cinema that knows exactly what it is, and delivers on its promise. I gave it an A-.

The Martian
At long, long last, we finally get a hard sci-fi movie with actual real science in it! Imagine such a thing! The Martian never dumbs itself down, and throws scientific concepts left and right at the screen, trusting the audience to keep up. It's awesome to finally see a movie that says it's cool to be smart.

This is the movie that Gravity and Interstellar SHOULD have been. I gave it an A-.

AND THE WINNER FOR BEST MOVIE OF 2015:
Ex Machina was a very good film that was actually about something, but it didn't exactly scream "fun" and I don't feel the need to ever see it again.

It was tough to decide between the remaining two. I liked Mad Max: Fury Road very much and almost chose it as the Best Movie of 2015. But as much fun as it is, even I have to admit it doesn't have a lot of substance.

It was a very close call, but I'm giving the award for Best Movie Of 2015 to The Martian. It's the hard sci-fi film we've all been waiting for and deserve, and will hopefully start a trend of movies that are actually smart. I'm not holding my breath though.

Let's hope 2016 produces a bigger crop of good movies!

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