The first half of 2016 was a pretty dull time at the movies, to say the least. These past six months have been filled with more than a handful of unwarranted big-budgeted sequels, lousy comedies and noisy bores. It’s not even safe at home anymore, with Netflix producing their own fair share of original films just as bad — or, sometimes, even worse — than anything that’s found at the multiplex. It’s dour times for movie lovers like myself. No wonder TV is kicking everyone’s asses. This is their competition? Is this really the best Hollywood has to offer? It’s not even a race half the time. They better step up their game soon, or I’m just going to spend my time catching up on The Americans, Veep, Horace and Pete and/or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend instead. Life is just too short to waste this much time and gas. So let’s have a little bit of fun, shall we?
As I’ve noted before, I’ve seen a lot of bad movies this year. I mean, a lot. And I’m going to rank the absolute worst I’ve seen so far, the most vile and putrid, the most deplorable of junk. But I must confess, I’m a mere movie-watching mortal. I haven’t seen everything. That pointless Cabin Fever remake, for instance, missed my gaze. As did God’s Not Dead 2, Ratchet & Clank, Ride Along 2, Meet the Blacks, The Darkness, Criminal, Precious Cargo, The Brothers Grimsby and VAXXED, which are all supposedly dreadful. I simply have so much time in my days, especially towards devoting to bad movies. If they deserve to be on this list, they didn’t make the cut solely because I haven’t seen them to judge.
Additionally, How to Be Single, Risen, Me Him Her, Kill Your Friends, The Boss, Colonia, The Forest, Search Party, The 5th Wave, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Jane Got a Gun, Dirty Grandpa, Zoolander 2 and The Boy were all bad films. I’m not going to argue otherwise. Personally, however, these other 10 movies are far worse. If you disagree, that’s fine. This is my list, and it might be subject to change as soon as I hit publish. I’m a flip-flopper by trade.
NOTE: I just realized I completely forgot to put Mother’s Day on this list. Rest assured, if I had remembered, it definitely would have been on this list. Probably in the bottom 5.
With that all said, let’s take a look at the worst films 2016 has offered thus far.
10. The Huntsman: Winter’s War
I’ll be honest: I didn’t think Snow White and the Huntsman was all that bad. Actually, I remember enjoying it fine at the time. Was it good? Probably not. I saw it half-awake in back of a car, so my memory of it is blurry and fleeting at best. But I enjoyed the striking visuals, I admired its sharp production designs and I kinda liked its ballsier take on the fairy tale, even if it wasn’t wanted or warranted. That said, nobody — including myself — asked for a sequel, let alone one without the titular Snow White involved. And, much like Alice Through the Looking Glass, it didn’t look like anyone involved with the production wanted to make it either.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a blatant, soulless cash grab, with nothing to offer the world besides half the cast of the original film and a bunch of ideas stolen from other, better films and TV shows. Taking elements from Frozen, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Fern Gully, HBO‘s Game of Thrones and Conan the Barbarian, to name a few, and throwing them into a lazy cocktail of boredom worth $115 million, it’s a prime example of the disconnect shared between audiences and filmmakers. A film without merit, need or approval, it’s an infuriatingly pointless endeavor, made without love or inspiration. It’s one of many films on this list made by a board of executives rather than a filmmaker with a vision, resulting in an end product without anything unique or distinctive to offer audiences.
Worse of all, however, The Huntsman rounds up a more-than-admirable cast, including Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon and Charlize Theron, and doesn’t give them tiddly-twat to do for two hours. Only Chastain looks like she’s having any fun at all, while Theron’s over-the-topness is more appreciated here than before solely because it bring a little life to the proceedings. Fairy tales are meant to be magical, but this was a bad apple from the start.
9. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
I’ve never been a Michael Bay fan. He has an audience, and that’s fine, but even his supposedly “better” movies, like Pain & Gain and The Rock, left me pretty cold. I’ve found them all (at least, the ones I’ve seen; I never got around to the Bad Boys films or Armageddon) to be fairly tacky, tedious and prolonged in their own ways. The Island was probably the closest he’s ever come to a good movie, in my mind, and that’s okay-at-best. My expectations for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, therefore, were admittedly low, and while this one earned a few more admirers than some of Bay’s other films, I didn’t find it better than anything else the wannabe auteur has made in the last few years. In fact, if anything, I found it to be a little more insulting than normal.
I admire Bay for not taking a hard political stance in this film, instead focusing the soldiers and their fearless commitment to this country. At least, that would be the focus, if Bay could differentiate any of these soldiers —besides our lead, played by a beefed-up John Krasinski — from one another, especially during their nighttime combat sequences. What results, then, is a noisy-at-best and exploitative-at-worst real-life tragedy given the schlocky Bay treatment, much like the director’s 2001 blunder, Pearl Harbor (but not quite as disrespectful). He even shamelessly recreates the same “iconic” bomb-dropping shot from that precise film in this one, though not as well or as effectively. 13 Hours is the first Bay film I saw in the theaters, which is perhaps why I disliked it so intensely. It’s everything I hated about the director’s other films, now without the comfort of the pause button, the remote to turn down the volume or any access to the kitchen. It’s exhausting. It’s mind-numbing. It’s aggravating. It’s Bay.
This one pains me a little bit. I know Duncan Jones, a proven filmmaker with both Moon and Source Code attached to his name, came with only the best intentions when giving World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s once insanely popular multi-player role-playing online video game series, the blockbuster treatment craved by so many fans, like himself. It’s shiny, bright, earnest and, at times, filled with some truly dazzling special effects, but it’s also woefully misguided, scattershot in its focus, lacking any emotional depth and, worse of all, entirely bland in its presentation. Borrowing heavily from The Lord of the Rings, Warcraft is a passionately-made, ambitiously-realized franchise-starter without the creditable world-building to separate itself from its peers, the rich mythology to feel tangible or distinct, or the likable characters to make it entertaining and worthwhile.
Ironically, Warcraft never provides the audience with an avatar to get immersed in this strange, alienating universe. It simply expects you to get sucked in the action, no matter how much understanding or prior knowledge you have to the game. It’s like watching a bunch of strangers play their 17th round of Dungeons & Dragons as you’re stuck in the corner seat, unable to leave or provide anything to the conversation. It’s clunky, awkward, poorly-paced, frustratingly boring and emotionally hollow as a result. You’d be better off playing the game at home. At least you’d feel connected to anything that’s happening in this world.
7. The Do-Over
And people thought The Ridiculous Six, Adam Sandler’s first Netflix movie, was bad. Okay, don’t get me wrong, it was bad. But it’s not nearly as terrible as The Do-Over, the second film under the SNL vet’s four-picture deal that’s somehow even more offensive, tone-deaf and exasperating than his last. Mean-spirited, regularly disgusting, immature-to-a-fault, inherently misogynistic and littered with Sandler’s love for blatant product placement, the newest Happy Madison production picks up all the worst Sandler traits, which haven’t been this bad since 2012’s That’s My Boy, and then accelerates them well beyond their breaking point. It holds nothing sacred, it doesn’t have any respect for anything whatsoever and it simply feels old, tired and outdated in its relevance. It also takes David Spade down with it, for better or for worse, along with Paula Patton, Luis Guzman, Natasha Leggero and poor Kathryn Hahn in the process. It actually feels twice as long as The Ridiculous Six, and it’s nearly 15-minutes shorter.
Welcome to the new era of Adam Sandler, available wherever Netflix is accessible. At a time when the comedian’s formula appears more shameless than ever, it takes an effort to make a film this fitfully ignorant and shallow. The Do-Over, however, is such a film, if it can even be called a film. It would be too easy to a make a “do-over” joke here, and I don’t want Adam Sandler to do it all over again; I just want him to connect back to his roots. He’s a genuinely talented actor, and he’s proven himself multiple times when given the chance to push himself outside his wheelhouse. But if anything, this deal proves that things only get worse when he’s given more creative freedom. He doesn’t need a restart; he needs a renovation.
6. Special Correspondents
2016 has not been Ricky Gervais’ finest hour. His third Golden Globes hosting gig was disappointing, to say the least, and his recent Verizon commercials don’t pack his usual punch. But worse of all, Special Correspondents, the first film he wrote and directed by himself, was a complete and utter waste. Produced and distributed by Netflix, it’s a sour disappointment for everyone involved, an absolute flatline in the laugh department and an entirely mismanaged use of Eric Bana, Kelly Macdonald and Vera Farmiga’s charm, time and talent. Lacking the sizzle, heart or comedic punch of Gervais’ other, better productions, most notably The Office UK or Extras, it not only fails to rise up to the standards of Gervais’ other movies, including the sweet-but-forgettable Cemetery Junction and the hit-and-miss The Invention of Lying, but it shows zero signs of passion, effort or inspiration on its actor-writer-director’s part. It’s plain, stale and weirdly tame, refusing to add anything relevant to the cultural conversation or sparking up any interest in its ideas or commentary. Needlessly to say, there’s nothing really special here.
It’s hard to figure out how he mustered up the enthusiasm to write the screenplay, let alone carry it through, put himself in a starring role and finish the damn thing. A remake of the 2009 French comedy of the same name, Special Correspondents feels super outdated, especially in relation to its use of technology, it lacks a firm backbone and it relies constantly on stereotypical supporting characters throughout. It’s a rare misstep for Gervais, and hopefully the worst thing he’ll ever make. Because I truly believe he’s one of the funniest people working today, and I’d be heartbroken to know if this is what we should expect from him in the future. On the bright side, Gervais’ next film, The Office UK spin-off David Brent: Life on the Road, looks much more promising. Hopefully it lives up to Gervais’ usual standards when it hits Netflix in 2017.
5. Gods of Egypt
I’m not sure what happened here. I’m at a loss. Alex Proyas’ bloated, muddled, deeply-misguided Gods of Egypt is a film with wall-to-wall insanity, the kind of ambitious high-scale production I usually champion readily. It has a vision, however misdirected, and it clearly comes from an inspired, if likely insane, filmmaker. So why, then, is this movie so gosh darn boring? Besides a fiery Gerard Butler and an underused Geoffrey Rush, everyone looks comatose or confused most of the time, trying desperately to work against the limitations of imposing green screens and disproportioned demigods interacting with regular humans. It’s wonky and weird to the point where nothing connects and nothing holds any water. For all the insanity it brings, the entertainment value is about as dry as the sands of Egypt.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Gods of Egypt literally bored me to tears. It’s stupefyingly bad, and perhaps the kind of truly mismanaged blockbuster only a truly talented filmmaker could cobble together. And I haven’t even discussed its rightfully-controversial white-washing, which is a whole other discussion. Lionsgate took a big hit with this one, and they should have. This was never going to be the next Hunger Games, and it was silly of them to think it ever would. Proyas’ latest is a mystifyingly inept production, a disaster that would be utterly spectacular if it weren’t so sleep-inducing. Intolerable, insipid, clumsy and oddly savorless, Gods of Egypt should go down in history as one of the biggest, strangest, most ill-advised and unholy studio failures ever brought to the big screen.
4. Fifty Shades of Black
We all know Fifty Shades of Grey is a joke. Well, unless you’re E.L. James. We’ve all laughed at its expense, poked fun at its poorly-written drivel or at least generally acknowledged its silliness. But nobody — and I mean, nobody — wanted, asked or needed Marlon Wayans’ for his take on the softcore porn romance. But here we are with Fifty Shades of Black, a feature-length parody designed to look at the smutty novel/film adaptation from the black perspective. And filled with Wayans’ flair for overbearing pop culture references, most of which are already outdated, screeching stereotypes, wacky faces, gross sex gags and complete lack of subtlety whatsoever, it might just be Wayans’ most unbearable contribution to film yet — which isn’t an easy feat at this point, especially after the godawful A Haunted House 2.
The one-joke premise would have felt haggard as a five-minute Funny or Die sketch, but as a 92-minute slog, it’s simply excruciating. Lead actress Kali Hawk is game for anything, but Wayans doesn’t know what to do with her — particularly as he’s desperately flopping around trying to make any of this material work. Later incorporating pointless pokes at great movies like Whiplash and Magic Mike whenever it has almost officially juiced out Fifty Shades of Grey for all it’s “worth,” it’s more aimless and patchy than usual for Wayans. The comedy is scattershot-at-best, it never really offers any original commentary about the source material and it mostly coasts by on the restating the same things everyone else has said about Fifty Shades of Grey, the film, at this point. Only Mike Epps, like a transient beckon of hope, offers any chuckles whatsoever, and his guest appearance is a fleeting five-minutes at most. There’s no black or grey about this one; it’s all the exact same shade of brown.
3. The Divergent Series: Allegiant
If aliens were to land on earth and visit a nearby movie theater, I would imagine their viewing experience would be similar to the one I had watching The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Lacking any emotional resonance, human connection or logic, it’s a soulless endeavor, priding itself on offering nothing worthwhile, memorable or engaging onto the screen. It’s a rushed, uninspired mess, a unwarranted chapter in a marginally-enjoyed franchise with no desire to excel or add anything new to the YA adaptation genre. If martians were to get their otherworldly hands on it, it would be understandable if they thought movies weren’t supposed to be fun.
Never carrying a pulse, Allegiant struts in monotone, expecting the audience to be engaged by the dystopian scenery more than any of the lifeless characters brought to the screen by a variety of puzzled, talented actors. Shailene Woodley, bless her heart, does what she can, but can’t do enough to engage us with our dull lead. Supporting cast members Miles Teller, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer and Ansel Elgort, similarly, can’t save this dull grind of a film, prattling along with nothing worthwhile to endear. It’s dystopian only in the sense that it’s appropriately the end of times, either for this lifeless subgenre or the future of blockbusters as we know them. If this is the best Hollywood has to offer, then there’s nothing really worth saving.
2. Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2
Most movies are self-contained by nature and, therefore, don’t need sequels. But there are some, like The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2 & 3, The Godfather Part II, Evil Dead 2, Spider-Man 2, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and The Dark Knight, to name a handful, that not only justify their existence, but actually improve upon the original and feel vital. They flesh out ideas, characters and storylines, add layers and meaning where they didn’t exist before and compliment the bigger picture-at-play. They not only enrich their series, but the art of filmmaking on the whole, overcoming the odds to provide something powerful, meaningful and valuable in their craft. Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 is not that kind of film, to say the least.
We’re living in the age of overdue, ill-considered sequels, and I’ve already mentioned quite a few. But SLC Punk is a distinct level of terrible. Writer/director James Merendino’s Kickstarter-funded follow-up to his 1998 cult classic is an unlovable runt of the film. It was released a full 18 years after the original, and it lacks any of the vibrant visual style or reflective self-awareness from the first film. It also only features one, maybe two stars from the original cast, and chooses the most convoluted story methods to connect back to the first. But most of all, it’s shockingly lazy and insultingly hackneyed, clearly the product of a filmmaker harkening back on his former glory rather than adding anything valuable to the continuation of his original story. In fact, I didn’t even believe it was the original filmmaker until I looked at the box; that’s how different this ones feels.
With poorly-drawn new characters, awful cinematography, indifferent direction and, worse of all, some piss-poor punk music, it’s among the most insufferable 75 minutes I’ve ever sat through and probably one of the worst sequels I’ve ever seen in my life. If punk is, indeed, dead, then the prospect of a SLC Punk sequel should have been killed in its place. And it should’ve been killed in a blaze of fire, on stage, yelling at the top of its lungs in front of its peers. That would’ve been way more punk than anything I witnessed here.
1. Norm of the North
Shitty CG-animated movies are on a different level than your average shitty movie. At least when you’re watching a bad live-action movie, something real, authentic and/or beautiful can make its way onto the frame, directly or not. There could be a gorgeous tree caught in the background, or a lovingly-made cottage used as the set or a perfectly-placed sunset caught by the filmmakers on accident. These are all liberties made available by reality. But even hand-drawn animation, while certainly not infallible to terribleness, can be etched with craftsmanship of its own. Terrible CG-animated movies, however, are worse than anything other bad film on this planet. They afford the rare distinction of being completely, entirely, head-to-toe awful, with nothing redeemable or visually appealing to offer. That’s what brings us to Norm of the North.
There’s nothing good in Norm of the North. There’s nothing to suggest its existence is warranted, let alone deserving of its own theatrical release in thousands of theaters across the country. Retrograde, lazy, ugly as sin and entirely ill-conceived from head-to-toe, it’s a shameless exercise in futility, a film that doesn’t offer a single second of goodness to its audience, young or old. Its animation is amusingly dated at first, but after a while, it’s hard not to feel bad for all the money, effort and hours to took to bring this story of a twerking polar bear in New York City to life. I, of course, use the term “life” loosely. It’s an absolute sellout, an empty vessel with no love or creativity infused inside.
Heavily stealing from the Madagascar, Despicable Me and Happy Feet movies, then slamming them together viciously and heartlessly, it’s exactly the kind of film that deserves to be shipped direct-toDVD and never seen again. That’s because it’s the first theatrical release from Splash Entertainment, one of those companies behind those shameless knock-offs capitalizing on Pixar and DreamWorks Animation’s success. It’s only appropriate, then, that Norm of the North not only live in the shadow of its betters, but fail in every conceivable way to be on the same playing field. This is a truly terrible film, in every imaginable way. There’s nothing about it worth seeing. It doesn’t just leave you cold, it leaves you soulless.