2016 has been a great year for movies. From summer blockbusters like Avengers: Civil War to critical darlings like the new Arrival to international animated successes like Zootopia, this year has had it all. Unfortunately, ‘all’ in this case also includes a bunch of duds. Bad scripts, bad acting, bad direction, or bad concepts can all ruin a movie. This, as we all know, happens all the time, and can even be the end of actors or directors’ careers. Unfortunate, yet inevitable.
But what really stinks is when a movie is expected to be amazing, with extreme hype surrounding it, a strong advertising run, or an insanely talented cast, and then it falls flat. Maybe a beloved book becomes a horrible movie (remember Eragon, anyone?). Maybe an excellent actor’s talents aren’t fully realized (Halle Berry in Catwoman, anyone?). Or maybe CGI and world-building is what causes disaster (dare we mention Green Lantern?). Whatever the case, it happens all the time, and 2016 was no exception. Cutting off the over-hyped movies of the year at 15 was a challenge, because there were plenty to choose from. Here’s to hoping 2017 isn’t full of duds.
15. The Brothers Grimsby
It’s been a while since the latest installment from famed comedian and architect of awkward encounters, Sacha Baron Cohen, of Borat and Bruno fame. This time it comes in the form of Nobby Butcher, a ridiculous alcoholic with a multitude of children, who attempts to reunite with his secret agent brother, played by Mark Strong. Full of gags and dumb stunts that may have been better received if geared toward middle school boys in 2009, The Brothers Grimsby fell flat this year.
Though the film has the outrageous and irreverent moments that you’d expect from a Sacha Baron Cohen project (such as the time Nobby is responsible for murdering a Palestinian-Jewish boy with AIDS, whose blood ends up in the mouth of Daniel Radcliffe, essentially giving him AIDS as well), these times are fewer and further between than in Cohen’s past endeavors. Additionally, the unscripted, more homemade feel of his past movies is totally absent from this one. If he can’t find that spirit again, it’s hard to imagine another success like the genius Borat.
14. Suicide Squad
By many counts, Suicide Squad was a success. We don’t want to sell short the commercial success of the film, or the massive fanbase the various antiheroes accrued. But after megastars joined the project, a stylized and modern ad campaign was released, and a huge buildup churned through the first part of 2016, expectations were high. Too high, it seems, for a superhero movie that felt like just that – another summer action flick, nothing less. Despite the gimmick of the villains becoming the heroes in a decidedly expected fashion, many of the plot elements of the movie fell completely into cliche.
All this isn’t to say that the performances were bad. Margot Robbie came into her own in a riveting portrayal of the sadistically alluring Harley Quinn, and Will Smith was as Will Smith as ever in his portrayal of Deadshot (think loving but scarred dad and total action bada*s). But a lack of clarity about the true villain Enchantress’ superpowers, a case of backstories being spread across too little time, and a rather gray color grading that stood out after a shocking and colorful ad campaign, Suicide Squad more than deserves its spot on this list.
Ben-Hur is a remake of the classic 1959 version. The epic suffers from a complete lack of anything that feels epic, which is, unsurprisingly, its major problem. The movie has a very clear religious component, with Jesus as a central character. For a movie trying to be so heavy and deep, it’s remarkable how empty this one feels.
Though there are notable performances amidst the mediocre in the film, first from the lead, played by Jack Huston and unsurprisingly from Morgan Freeman, the dialogue is clunky at its worst, and the effects are clunky at their best. In addition to its poor reception, the movie cost a whopping $100 million and failed to earn that, even internationally. We hope that means there won’t be a rehashed Ben-Hur 2 in 2018 that will earn even a lower place on a list like this.
12. Alice Through The Looking Glass
Tim Burton seemed to beat the recent trend of creating live action fairy tale remakes with his zany but wondrous of Alice in Wonderland in 2010, full of colorful monsters, big eyes, and pale female protagonists. An element of wonder served the remake well, but the follow-up, Alice Through The Looking Glass, helmed by director James Bobin, didn’t hold the same magic, neither with critics or the public.
Though the sequel had amazing visuals, the story was weak. Though the same stellar cast returned, the characters didn’t come alive in the same way. Though the first film was a commercial success, this one flopped. The film received a measly 30% on Rotten Tomatoes from the critics, and a miserable 51% from the public. Johnny Depp returned with his weirdness turned up, and his likability down. Anne Hathaway‘s pasty makeup was as vibrant as her performance. And even Helena Bonham Carter‘s high-rise forehead couldn’t save an otherwise dim film.
Near the beginning of the movie, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is faced with giving up her father’s ship, and in turn, exploration. “And give up the wonder?” she says. It seemed to us that it was already gone.
Oh, video game movies. The definition of hype and letdown. After gaining huge fanbases, these lumbering movies often tank or become critically reviled after their hyped-up releases. The same happened with this year’s Warcraft, although admittedly, to a lesser degree. Easter eggs that only the game players caught, glimmers of impressive CGI, and acting that wasn’t as bad as, say, Mortal Kombat: Annhilation‘s, but certainly won’t be up for any awards this January.
Warcraft follows the story of an orc invasion of the planet Azeroth, leading to inevitable conflict between the fel-corrupted orc leaders and the Azeroth inhabitants, including the Anduin, the movie’s hero, played by the capable Travis Fimmel. While the plot is more complex than you’d expect, with different groups and ideologies within both the orc horde and the humans and their compromised Guardian on Azeroth, that doesn’t mean there’s that much to it. Fights between massive orcs and magic-wielding robed men is visually exciting, but doesn’t do much to build many sympathetic characters. We’ll cautiously hope for more from the upcoming Assassin’s Creed adaptation.
10. Mechanic: Resurrection
When the original Mechanic came around in 2011, it was sleek and dirty at the same time, led by a powerful performance by Jason Statham doing what he has always done best: action movies that rely on nothing but his powerful physique and dominating presence. But Statham wasn’t enough to muscle this misguided project into the hearts of critics or viewers.
Mechanic: Resurrection adds nothing new to the action genre. Never settling on a single location, this movie feels empty and ungrounded. Basically just a list of assassinations, all designed to look like accidents, Statham remains unchanged from other movies, but can’t make this action movie anything close to entertaining. The addition of Jessica Alba, who has long seemed on the downhill career-wise, just adds to the feel of gilded coal: a shiny exterior with nothing of worth inside.
9. Gods of Egypt
Gods of Egypt was almost indescribable in its complete bizarre premise and gimmicks alongside obvious box office pandering. It started off on the wrong foot, with numerous accusations of whitewashing upon its cast’s announcement. From the first scenes full of golden pyramids and temples, it’s clear this film was created as a canvas for showing off with CGI. At times, this succeeds, but at other times it’s laughable. To show their godliness (outside of transforming into huge jackals or birds or whatever), each of the immortals is also bigger than the average human form. Somehow, this is done in a less convincing manner than Peter Jackson was able to do back with Lord of the Rings, using technology from 2001. Aside the hilarious and overused effects, viewers also suffered through a clumsy plot, in which any twist and turn simply felt like an excuse to make the movie longer.
Certainly entertaining, but not for any of the reasons intended by those involved, we felt like we were laughing at the entire conceit of the concept rather than at the bad jokes and uninspired adventuring of the protagonists. Sun boats in the sky, the search for a god’s eye, giant gods flirting in the swamp, an inevitable resurrection… it’s all too much.
8. Now You See Me 2
After the first Now You See Me‘s success, a second was sure to come. Joining a common theme of misguided and money-grabbing sequels on this list, Now You See Me 2 suffers from more than just a dull title. While the first movie was full of charisma and twists that, although occasionally farfetched, at least entertained us, the second dropped the charisma and created a film that sabotaged its own premise.
In short, magic feels cheap when it’s inexplicable. In the age of CGI and camera tricks, nothing about the actual magic in the shots of the movie feels real. So a fight featuring mirrors that appear out of nowhere, or unexplained teleportations, is unimpressive and flat. It’s ironic, really, that the more outlandish the tricks, the less taken the viewers are. And the audiences were very unimpressed, according to the 55% from Rotten Tomatoes (along with the 34% critics rating). We think Isla Fisher had the best trick of the bunch, after vanishing from the cast list between the two movies. Too bad she took all the fun and entertainment along with her.
Perhaps most telling about the third installment of the Divergent series’ reception is that the next movie will be direct-to-television, skipping over the critical bludgering Allegiant received. In Allegiant, our stereotypically blunt and resourceful YA protagonist Tris (Shailene Woodley) escapes dystopian Chicago to face PG-13-style soap opera interactions with the rest of the flat cast. The meandering, uninteresting plot is everything that makes sequels (especially YA sequels) more and more unbearable.
It’s still uncertain if the fourth film, Ascendant, will even develop. None of the stars have reportedly signed onto the project, and though it has a director in Lee Toland Krieger, we’re skeptical of how fast the release will happen, if it does. We’re pretty sure no one will be too put out if the whole thing just drops off.
6. London Has Fallen
Featuring megastars Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Basset and Gerard Butler, with an action-packed advertisement campaign, and a monstrous budget; this action flick shouldn’t have sucked. It also shouldn’t have done so well at the box office, netting almost 200 million, according to multiple sources. While this last fact ensures another knock off or sequel of an already stale plot, we certainly hope it doesn’t.
Filmed like a movie set out to make money (which it did) and not make a good story (which it certainly didn’t), London Has Fallen cashed in on every action cliche imaginable. A distant father? Check. A bunch of world leaders gathered in one place? Check. A massive terrorist plot? Check. While the actors gave the movie what looks like at least a decent effort, they certainly didn’t join the project for the script’s sake. The writing was recycled, and the plot deemed Islamophobic by sources such as Variety. All in all, a dud. But we’ll still see sequels up until one of these blunders finally tanks. Earth Has Fallen, here we come.
5. Independence Day: Resurgence
Twenty years after the massive success of 1996’s Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich attempted to match his inspiration’s success with a subpar sci-fi flick solely reliant on nostalgia and special effects, neither of which had strong enough effect to save a poorly conceived film. Perhaps the most notable paradox of the film is the countdown to the end of the earth, which does the opposite of its intended, simply insuring the audience that the movie would indeed end soon.
Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth were two of the bigger names associated with the film, and we assume that neither are very proud of the finished work. Maybe the film needed its previous star Will Smith, or maybe it just needed to never have happened.
4. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Perhaps the most hyped movie of the year is Batman V Superman, DC Comics’ big film of the year. Two of the most iconic superheroes of all time meeting in a single film, with stars like Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg in the mix? While some were geared up for the movie to fail, the lack of critical appreciation for the film was a surprise to many. Receiving a 27% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, Batman V Superman was liked enough to break the 60% mark from the public on the same site. The bloated budget helped inflate expectations as well, as more than an estimated $250 million went into the lackluster endeavor.
So why was it so hated? While attempting to focus on character development with a relatively slow-burning first half, the film failed to accomplish this task, perhaps because of the director’s obsession with perfect shots rather than good scenes, according to Nerdwriter. Others have accused it of being ponderous and lazy, without enough care and polish in development to match its attempted grit. DC Comics is in a constant movie battle against Marvel, and in this one way they don’t make a better showing for themselves. With plenty more chances for success in 2017 with Justice League and Wonder Woman.
3. The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Is it okay to have a favorite on the list of worst movies of the year? Probably not. But if we could, this would be our pick. It’s so bad that it becomes a goofy ride covered in CGI tar, gold and ice, full of fake accents and a plot that seems to be set on fast-forward. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Winter’s War is the wasted talents of an amazing cast, including Jessica Chastain, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and the inimitable Emily Blunt. Added to this is the freedom of the prequel setup: though Snow White and the Huntsman was connected just barely to its fairytale namesake, Winter’s War could cut those ties basically completely, as long as it ended at the right moment. This should have given it an artistic freedom that should have made it really good. It wasn’t, of course.
The whirlwind plot that still managed to be predictable, Chastain’s laughable Scottish accent, the icy glow of all of the scenes, and the melodrama clinging to every line all make this amazingly awful film the blockbuster version of a one-dollar fantasy novel found in a dusty used books bargain bin. So why do we hope there’s a pre-prequel?
2. Mother’s Day
If you haven’t learned to stay away from any movies titled with a holiday and with a movie poster plastered with a grid of at least twelve celebrities, each with a forced yet glowing smile, as if held at gunpoint by their agents. All the hype on this one, and its predecessors Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve come from the star-studded cast. Why, oh why? Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis… How much did they pay you to engage with such drivel?
A synopsis is hardly worth the time to type. Basically, emotional manipulation at every level that doesn’t even succeed. If you want the fast version (and we promise, you don’t want the long version), just watch the trailer, which basically looks like a case study in bad filming. With an embarrassing 7% critical reception on Rotten Tomatoes, Mother’s Day more than earns its spot on this list.
1. Dirty Grandpa
Even two of cinema’s most beloved and commercially viable stars, Robert DeNiro and Zac Efron, couldn’t save this comedic misstep from itself. Perhaps the worst possible result of a comedy is that it is remarkably unfunny, and that’s exactly what happened with Dirty Grandpa. Crass, absurd, and at its core, pathetic, Dirty Grandpa isn’t worth the two hours it takes to watch.
For one, watching a two-time Academy winner play up dumb gags like having a muscle show with Zac Efron, awkward s*x with Aubrey Plaza, and waltzing through the embarrassing plot twists, is cringeworthy enough. But combined with what critics have called racist and homophobic jokes that don’t even land, and a performance by Zac Efron that feels forced and completely unhumorous makes for a film that we wish wouldn’t have been made.
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