My 10 Least Favorite Movies of 2016

You should never take negativity into the new year. So before the calendar turns, let’s get the countdown of the worst movies in 2016 out of the way. As always, I don’t get a chance to catch every movie, and the bad flicks slip through the cracks way more than the good ones do. So there are plenty of movies that won’t make this list because I never got around to wasting my time watching them. Also, full disclosure: If you’re looking for movies like Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, or Passengers, there’s a difference between disappointing and virtually unwatchable so those 2-hour balls of depression managed to miss the cut. Click on the title to get the full review. And of course, have a happy and safe New Year everyone.

  1. OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Office Christmas Party seems to inefficiently operate with the idea that loud and outrageous always equals funny. It doesn’t”

  1. ANGRY BIRDS

everything… about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time”

  1. WARCRAFT

a bland script and a plot void of any real surprises gives us a cast of generic characters that lack the charm or unique qualities to make them stand out as memorable. The result is a movie that struggles to make anyone care who, like me, never played the games.”

  1. RIDE ALONG 2

“Ride Along 2 just isn’t funny and like its predecessor, relies on the same tricks to try and justify its existence.”

  1. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

“It almost feels like a Saturday Night Live parody of something more interesting. The plot has no twists or unexpected turns making it feel like something written in a day”

  1. THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT

“Allegiant isn’t quite as droll as Insurgent, but it is bad for entirely new, avoidable reasons. Shoddy CGI and a few segments of noticeable green screen make the movie look cringe worthy in certain spots”

  1. GODS OF EGYPT

“this movie manages to be chocked full of as many plot holes as action sequences…  The fact that the film is poorly cast, filled with hardly relevant/unlikable characters that do idiotic things, and is about 30 minutes too long all make for an unpleasant overall experience.”

  1. WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS

“These movies usually involve stalker tendencies, blackmail, and the inevitable violent showdown at the end, but this movie does the bare minimum to even qualify as a thriller. I gave The Perfect Guy an ‘F’ last year, and this movie is significantly less watchable.”

  1. THE BOSS

“This may very well be McCarthy’s worst film. I spent the first 45 minutes waiting to laugh and even after the movie was over I had trouble recollecting a single funny moment.”

  1. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

“I searched myself for over 24 hours for something enjoyable about this film. Make no mistake, Independence Day: Resurgence is a loud, clumsy and hollow sequel that taints the legacy of its predecessor.”

HONORABLE MENTION: Now You See Me 2, The Legend of Tarzan, The Perfect Match

 

Quick Reviews (November 2016)

There are a couple of movies that have come out recently that are worth checking out (The AccountantKevin Hart: What Now?) and one you should wait for on Red Box or not see at all (Keeping up with the Joneses). Here are some quick thoughts for the film critic and critic reader on the go.

keeping_up_with_the_joneses_filmKEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES At one point in the movie, during a neighborhood barbecue, Zach Galifianakis’ character hands Jon Hamm’s character a beer bottle. Hamm’s undercover secret agent uses his wedding band to suavely open the bottle with ease. When Galifianakis’ wholesome character tries to imitate, he ends up turning his hand into a bloody mess. There. That’s the only time I did anything more than a light chuckle while watching this movie.

There are other slightly humorous moments. Most of them are from the trailers and the rest you’ll forget as soon as you walk out of the theater. Keeping Up with Joneses,  a movie about a boring couple (Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) who get caught up in a generic spy flick with their undercover neighbors (Hamm and Wonder Woman), is as bland as can be. It almost feels like a Saturday Night Live parody of something more interesting. The plot has no twists or unexpected turns making it feel like something written in a day and even the action is less inspiring than Kevin Hart’s lousy Ride Along movies. FINAL GRADE: D- 

the_accountant_2016_filmTHE ACCOUNTANT Batman… I mean Ben Affleck, stars as Christian Wolff, a high functioning autistic who is an accountant by day and a highly skilled vigilante by night. When auditing a tech company lands him in the crosshairs of a dangerous assassin (Jon Bernthal), he and a middling company accountant (Anna Kendrick) must go on the run. Also on his trail are two government agents (J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who are coming close to uncovering his secrets.

The film is fun and entertaining until its final act, when it goes from thriller to predictable B-movie. Twists can be seen a mile away and the moment meant to be the biggest reveal (at the very end) seems too farfetched even more than the idea of an autistic superspy. But overall, the movie is exciting and filled with a likable central cast, headlined by Affleck’s admirable performance. The action is also as thrilling as a Jason Bourne movie. FINAL GRADE: B

fb_img_1424255884706KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? Kevin Hart hasn’t made too many memorable movies, but his stand up specials are always laugh out loud funny. Hart returns to his niche with his latest stand up special taped at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Complete with more bells and whistles than any stand up show should have, Hart navigates through hilarious stories about his family and newfound mega stardom.

The film opens up with a James Bond spoof where Hart works with Halle Berry to secure funds for his global tour. This part serves only to make the movie worthy of a feature length film, but it is just as funny as the stand up. Several actors make cameos and it actually made me wonder why Hart’s narrative films often aren’t as enjoyable. Some jokes aren’t as fresh as those from his older specials, and the repetitive need to create quotables is a bit too obvious, but nonetheless What Now? manages to have enough gut busting laughs to exemplify why he’s the current king of comedy. FINAL GRADE: B+

 

 

When the Bough Breaks (Full Review)

Morris Chestnut sure likes to make movies where he is engulfed in a love triangle with a murderous psychopath. Last fall, he was in The Perfect Guy (if you can call fifteen minutes of screen time being “in” the movie).That movie was awful. This time around Chestnut takes the lead role in a film with a much different twist on the fatal attraction thriller.

when_the_bough_breaks_2016_filmChestnut plays John, a lawyer on the verge of making partner at his firm who is married to a beautiful, successful chef named Laura (Regina Hall). After several unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a baby, the two place their last embryo in the hands (or uterus) of a shy girl named Anna (Jaz Sinclair) who is more than willing to be their surrogate. After a violent night with her abusive boyfriend (Theo Rossi), Anna is invited to live with John and Laura leading to a creepy obsession with John that threatens his career, his marriage, and his unborn child.

There is a certain soap opera, turn your brain off and watch, type of intrigue to films like this. So even when they’re awful audiences can find some type of enjoyment with them. And yet, When the Bough Breaks, barely manages to deliver on that aspect. The first half of the movie is mainly spent dealing with Anna’s crazy boyfriend, a man Chestnut’s character inexplicably lets off of the hook even with the golden opportunity to get him out of the picture. These movies usually involve stalker tendencies, blackmail, and the inevitable violent showdown at the end, but this movie does the bare minimum to even qualify as a thriller.

The result is a story that feels like a cliff notes version of something fans of the genre might expect to be far more entertaining. The performances are decent enough for a glorified Lifetime movie. Jaz Sinclair at least gives emotional weight to a character that actually has motivation to be insane. But everything else about this movie is completely unlikable. Regina Hall’s Laura isn’t even endearing. She isn’t a great spouse and she has an unhealthy obsession with having the baby even after she learns Anna is a psychopath who tried to steal her husband. The ending is also anticlimactic. I gave The Perfect Guy an ‘F’ last year, and this movie is significantly less watchable. So guess where that leaves it.

FINAL GRADE: F

Independence Day: Resurgence (Full Rant)

Finding Dory was a perfect example of how an unnecessary sequel can be a masterpiece. Independence Day: Resurgence is the complete and utter opposite. We should’ve seen this coming. Not the inevitable sequel to a classic, but said inevitable sequel being a dud when Will Smith (whose film career was partially launched by the first film) refused to be involved. And even that giant red flag isn’t enough to prepare you for this disaster.

Independence-Day-2-posterLike the previous film, IDR picks up twenty years after “The War of 1996” when Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) helped lead the charge to save humanity from a hostile invading alien army. In the aftermath, humanity banded together and used the alien technology to create a global defense system reaching all the way to the moon and even to Saturn. Will Smith’s character is now dead, and his boring adopted son (Jessie Usher) has taken up the mantle as a decorated pilot. President Whitmore is now senile due to his first hand contact with the aliens and his daughter (Maika Monroe) is now a former pilot and presidential aid. Thor’s little brother (Liam Hemsworth) plays the same role he plays in every movie: The good-looking boyfriend who is a rugged fighter.

There are a bunch of other lousy characters in the movie, but I’ll spare you because I don’t want this review to be as flimsy as the movie was. Oh yeah… Vivica Fox returns if you consider two scenes being a part of the movie. All of the wit and charm that Will brought to the 1996 film is gone; replaced by so much cliché dialogue, characters and action sequences, you’d think this movie was the one made in the 90’s. And the compost heap of characters is only one part of the problem.

The plot obviously centers on the return of the evil aliens. Only this time there is a new wrinkle added, that doesn’t work at all, in the form of a separate alien being that comes to help the human race. After shooting down the peaceful alien ship, despite David Levinson (you know, the one guy everyone should listen to)’s objections, the evil alien force arrives and rips through Earth’s upgraded defense like a banner at a high school football game with a ship literally one third the size of Earth.

From there, we get stupid decision after stupid decision such as sending in the entire fleet of pilots at the mother ship, even though we know the shield’s are impenetrable and the same strategy failed 20 years ago. Then there are giant plot holes. The aliens have CLEARLY upgraded all of their arsenal, and yet a bunch of humans can hijack their ships in a matter of seconds and fly them out of the mothership like it’s as easy as picking up an X-Box controller and playing Halo. And somehow the impenetrable, continent sized mothership’s goal of drilling into the Earth’s core, is halted seconds from completion because the alien leader is defeated.

I searched myself for over 24 hours for something enjoyable about this film. But even Bill Pullman’s “rousing” speech feels forced making absolutely nothing about this movie feel genuine. Make no mistake, Independence Day: Resurgence is a loud, clumsy and hollow sequel that taints the legacy of its predecessor. So please, if you are a fan of the 1996 film as I am, do yourself a favor and pretend like this movie doesn’t exist.

FINAL GRADE: F

Warcraft (Full Review)

The question will remain until it’s effectively answered: Is it possible to make a great movie adaptation of a video game? Sure there have been some pretty decent ones (I’m quite fond of the original Resident Evil), but there’s no denying that when it comes to adapting another medium for the big screen, the video game to film genre is lightyears behind books, TV shows, and comics. Now comes Warcraft, adapted from a popular online role playing game, this Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy is the latest game franchise to fail to leave a mark for movie going audiences.

Warcraft_Teaser_PosterWarcraft tells the story of a war between Orcs, large humanoid tusked creatures, and humans. After the Orc home world begins to die, an Orc wizard named Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu) uses a dark magic force to create a portal to Azeroth, land of humans, dwarves and several other inconsequential species. There, they plan to conquer the humans and take Azeroth as their new home. Weary of the death and destruction is Orc chief and new father, Durotan (Toby Kebbell) who seeks to unite with the humans to stop Gul’Dan and protect his family. Leading the humans is their fiercest warrior, Lothar (Travis Fimmel), noble King Llane (Dominic Cooper), rogue wizard, Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), fading sorcerer, Medivh (Ben Foster), and half human-half orc, Garona (Paula Patton).

The special effects are state of the art and the premise lends itself to an entertaining movie, but nearly everything about Warcraft is a bore. This is in large part due to stale performances by everyone not named Toby Kebbell. But I won’t blame the actors, a bland script and a plot void of any real surprises gives us a cast of generic characters that lack the charm or unique qualities to make them stand out as memorable. The result is a movie that struggles to make anyone care who, like me, never played the games.

The action in the film, though gruesome, is entertaining for anyone who is a fan of such things. And although the characters are generic and forgettable, the surviving pieces are at least left in scenarios that might garner a more interesting sequel. But none of that comes frequent enough to excuse a story that lacks conviction and characters that seem like something we’ve seen before. I’m not sure what the many fans of the game will think of Warcraft, but I’m almost certain newcomers won’t be captivated enough to want to stick around for anymore adventures.

FINAL GRADE: D+

 

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

Perfect Match/The Boss Quick Reviews

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus (somewhat recovering from the disappointment of Batman v Superman). But I’ve still been doing my best to keep up with all of the new releases. Here are two films to avoid if you haven’t spent money on them already.

ThePerfectMatchPosterTHE PERFECT MATCH 106 and Park host turned actor, Terrence J gets the star treatment in his first leading role. Fresh off getting significant screen time in the Think Like A Man films as a humble, church going Mama’s boy, Terrence switches things up this time as Charlie, a successful bachelor who wants anything but a serious relationship despite the fact that his best friends (Donald Faison, Lauren London, Robert Riley, Dascha Polanco) are all married. Believing that he is immune to love, and ignoring the counsel of his older sister (Paula Patton), Charlie takes a bet that he can withstand a sexual relationship with new flame, Eva (Cassie Ventura), without falling for her and wanting something more.

The movie isn’t unwatchable, but there are numerous qualities that may make you feel like you overspent for the price of admission. A cast of mainly B-listers and a relatively flimsy script that for some reason includes a subplot involving rapper French Montana as himself, don’t help the mediocre production value and cinematography that are both best suited for a BET original movie. But the biggest problem is Terrence J. After watching him hold his own in an ensemble cast as a choir boy, seeing him here as a womanizing playboy just never feels right. And when your lead actor isn’t quite believable, even a few funny jokes and a pleasantly surprising twist in the final act can’t save this movie from feeling like something best suited for Redbox and a rainy day. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Boss_posterTHE BOSS I’m beginning to wonder if Melissa McCarthy is doing this on purpose. We know McCarthy can be downright hilarious (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy). And yet, she continues to put out a stinker (Identity Thief, Tammy) every so often to make you that much more skeptical about her next film. This newest unfunny, cash grab sees McCarthy taking on the role of  orphan turned despicable, rich mogul Michele Darnell.  After being ratted out for insider stock trading by her ex (Peter Dinklage), Darnell hits rock bottom and must room with her former assistant (Kristen Bell) who is a single mother raising a teenage daughter.

This may very well be McCarthy’s worst film. I spent the first 45 minutes waiting to laugh and even after the movie was over I had trouble recollecting a single funny moment. The fact that this movie is a comedy makes it unwatchable for that reason alone and makes the tiny dose of heart toward the end seem like an afterthought. Then there’s Peter Dinklage, who absolutely phones it in with a role so cartoonish, it makes his performance in last summer’s Pixels seem Oscar worthy. I’ll give McCarthy a pass on this one, so long as she never does anything like it again. FINAL GRADE: D-

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Full Review)

Divergent was, by no means, a groundbreaking achievement in film. But, I at least felt entertained despite its sloppy plot and meager production value. Last year’s sequel, Insurgent, managed to up the ante on the special effects front, but its plot was twice as incoherent as its predecessors’. So after a proverbial dud of a sequel, this young adult book trilogy turned film series has nowhere to go but up. Or so it seemed.

AllegiantfilmposterAllegiant picks up where Insurgent left off. With the faction system now toppled, Divergent hero, Tris (Shailene Woodley), tough guy boyfriend, Four (Theo James) and their friends are now desperate to leave ruined Chicago and to explore the unknown world that lies beyond the massive wall that surrounds the city. With Four’s mother (Naomi Watts) desperate to cease power, Tris and company decide to stage a daring (and rather dumb) plan to sneak out. Once beyond the wall, they discover the technologically advanced world responsible for their city and must convince its bureaucratic leader (Jeff Daniels) to prevent Chicago from tearing itself apart.

As far as plot’s go, this film is much easier to follow than Insurgent, but newcomers will still be totally lost if they haven’t brushed up on the first two films. And, unlike with the previous installment, there is actually a story that furthers the development of characters and the overall tone and message of the series. The problem is, the execution is virtually nonexistent.

I haven’t read the books, so I can’t tell if the script or source material is responsible for doing such a poor job of structuring what should be a decent story. Some characters are underutilized or killed off before you can even remember what purpose they served. Then there are the primary antagonists, who are either flat out dumb or spend the entire movie making unintelligent decisions that contradict how intelligent they are supposed to be. We’re supposed to believe Jeff Daniels’ villain, David, has been watching Tris and knows everything about her, and yet his overall plan involves hoping this rebellious teen conforms and doesn’t ask the simplest of questions? And he isn’t the only character that does dumb things. Through two previous films we’ve learned that Miles Teller’s character, Peter, is a double crossing sleaze, and yet at every turn the protagonists seem to go out of their way to ignore this fact and land everyone in deeper trouble because of it.

Allegiant isn’t quite as droll as Insurgent, but it is bad for entirely new, avoidable reasons. It doesn’t help that the film feels the impact of Insurgent’s financial flop. Shoddy CGI and a few segments of noticeable green screen make the movie look cringe worthy in certain spots. So, if you’re looking for a poorly rendered, poorly executed young adult science fiction movie to sit through until Batman v Superman drops, look no further. Otherwise, save your money and wait a few days.

FINAL GRADE: D+

Gods of Egypt (Full Review)

What if I told you, that Gerard Butler trouncing around as an Ancient North African mythological God whilst speaking with his normal Scottish accent isn’t remotely the worst thing about Gods of Egypt? Sure, it’s a sloppy detail that makes the filmmakers seem incredibly dense, but a racially accurate cast is far from the element needed to make Gods of Egypt watchable. Like 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, this movie is dead on arrival mostly due to a poorly written script and lackluster direction.

Gods_of_Egypt_posterThe film tells the story of a power struggle between Set (Butler), vengeful God of the desert, and his nephew Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), God of the Sky. After Set kills Horus’ father and takes Horus’ eyes, he overtakes Egypt and begins his mission to rule all of the world’s realms. After stealing back one of Horus’ eyes, mortal thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) reluctantly joins Horus on a quest to save the love of his life, Zaya (Courtney Eaton) and take back Egypt from Set.
The plot seems decent enough to carry out a movie with at least the competence of a film like Clash of the Titans. And yet, this movie manages to be chocked full of as many plot holes as action sequences. For instance; despite having an army that is about a tenth of Egypt’s population and despite being outnumbered by God’s who don’t support him, Set manages to overtake Egypt without the slightest hint of difficulty. There are also rules established by the film, like Horus needing both of his eyes for flight, that are repeatedly and conveniently thrown aside to further the film’s plot. Combine that with dumb elements like the God of the Sun (Geoffrey Rush) battling a giant Space worm, and this movie feels like it’s been written by a 9 year old with each passing second.
There is some clever dialogue thrown in that manages to make the film go from atrocious to so-bad-it’s-funny territory, and that may be the movie’s only saving grace. The fact that the film is poorly cast, filled with hardly relevant/unlikable characters that do idiotic things, and is about 30 minutes too long all make for an unpleasant overall experience. And if you’re looking for decent special effects, look elsewhere. The CGI seems at least 10 years behind it’s time more often than not.
FINAL GRADE: D