Nobody sets out to make a bad movie and yet, here they are, the worst films of the year:
“The Boy Next Door” is the kind of movie where when someone says, “You can trust me,” you know the opposite is true. The Jennifer Lopez thriller is a lesson in not trusting neighbors, no matter how good looking they are.
“The Boy Next Door” is as generic a thriller as the bland title suggests. There are unintentionally camp moments of soap opera melodrama but without the kind of trashy fun that would make this a so-bad-it’s-good thriller. Instead, it is simply a bad movie and you can trust me on that. (No really, you can!)
In a scene at the end of the “Entourage” film someone has the idea of turning the exploits of actor Vincent Chase, his best friend and manager Eric Murphy, half brother Johnny Drama and pal Turtle into a movie. “Sounds more like a TV show,” cracks Ari, the hotshot agent who made Vincent a superstar.
You know what? He’s right. It worked better as a TV show than it does as a movie.
“Entourage” the movie feels like binge watching three or four episodes of the television show. No attempt has been made to make the movie more cinematic than the show or to deepen the characters or situations. Chase is still the carefree superstar who thinks he can start all over again by moving back to his old neighbourhood in Queens if everything goes sour. Turtle remains a romantic wannabe while Johnny Drama is wracked by insecurity and E quietly tries to keep everything from spinning out of control.
If the name “Arrested Development” hadn’t already been taken by another show it would have been the perfect title for this bunch, who are more interested in meeting women and when they’re not meeting women, then talking about women than they are in behaving like actual living, breathing people. Perhaps their insipid behaviour is a comment on the vapid Hollywood lifestyle or maybe it is just vapid. I think suggesting a movie that uses a line like, “when one vagina closes, another one opens,” of any grand, high-minded purpose is overstating things by a mile.
All the glitz and glam in the world—the movie is a tribute to lifestyle porn—can cover the emptiness of the story, and even filling up screen time with an extensive array of cameos—everyone from Kelsey Grammer and Pharrell Williams to Liam Neeson and Andrew Dice Clay pop up for one line gags—does little more than turn the film into a celebrity “Where’s Waldo” exercise.
“Fantastic Four,” the reboot of Marvel’s original superhero gang starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell, should have had a subtitle. I’d suggest “Fantastic Four: Prologue!” or perhaps “Fantastic Four: Failure to Launch.” The latest entry into the superhero sweepstakes is a leaden affair that seems to exist only to set up a sequel and doesn’t even do a good job at that.
Director Josh Trank makes an effort to distinguish the movie with an hour of character development off the top but the pace is anything but fantastic—there’s a low energy chase scene that feels like the cars are driving through molasses—and the movie plays more like an emo indie than a superhero flick. The serious tone is appreciated after the smirky “Avengers: Age of Ultron” but the empty millennial platitudes—“We can’t change the past but we can change the future!”—and lack of any really compelling characters make it a slog. The beauty of the “Fantastic Four” comic books was the chemistry between the characters, an element, despite good actors, missing from the reboot.
The first time De Niro starred in a heist movie directed by someone with the last name Mann we got “Heat,” a genuinely exciting action movie. This time around director Scott Mann has cast De Niro in a movie with a generic title to match its characters and direct-to-video feel. Part “Speed” and part every other heist film ever made, “Heist” relies on implausible plot twists—like cops who break the law to aid the bad guys because one of the hijackers had “a reassuring voice”—and clichés to tell its weak-tea story.
One exchange between The Pope and his henchman sums up the entire movie.
“Looks like they’re running to the border!”
“Cliché,” says The Pope.
Yes it is Bob, and so is the rest of the movie.
Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are a good match. In true buddy comedy tradition they are Mutt and Jeff, physical and personality opposites. Witherspoon is short and spunky, Vergara is like a cartoon, Jessica Rabbit with an accent and a way with a line.
It’s too bad they aren’t given much to work with. The film starts with a gem of a sequence showing Cooper literally growing up in the back of a police car. It’s charming, funny and sweet, which buys the rest if the movie some goodwill, but it doesn’t last. Both actors squeeze laughs out of underwritten material—Vergara’s delivery is all rolling Rs and cleavage, Witherspoon falls into slapstick—but even though they’re funny, the script isn’t. They milk a few giggles out of the situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re starring in a lazily scripted road movie with no real forward motion. There’s not enough energy or laughs to keep things really interesting.
“Hot Pursuit” is a good showcase for its stars but the best it can do is poke fun at the ages and bodies of its leads. Both deserve better and so do we.
“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” feels like it was written by a group of frat boys in the throws of a raging kegger at the Delta Tau Chi House after a “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” marathon. All the animal house trademarks are here — vomit gags, jokes about sex with animals, a drug trip, testicle terror and homophobic razzing. The only thing missing is Seth Rogen and boy, did he miss a bullet.
Working from a script that feels improvised, the usually funny guys Corddry, Robinson, Duke and Scott are at sea in a movie that abandons the story — the search for the shooter is side tracked for twenty or more minutes while the guys flit through time — in favour of raunchy jokes and random situations. As the cast tries in vain to find the funny you hope that the next trip in the Hot Tub Time Machine will be their last.
“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” is a waste of time — past and present.
“Mortdecai” breathes the same air as “The Pink Panther” movies—with an added nod to the 1967 “Casino Royale,” an all-star heist movie most notable for featuring both Woody Allen and Orson Welles on the same marquee—but gets lightheaded when it tries to replicate the easy-breezy tone of those films. Caper flicks of a bygone era had a swingin’, hip feel of controlled chaos, not overplayed farce. Unfortunately Depp is pedal-to-the-metal, quirking-it-up in a display completely without charm and worse, without wit. He sets the mood for the film—daft, overly mannered, arch and unfunny leaving the audience hungry for laughs.
Years from now when people look up the meaning of the word “unnecessary” in the dictionary the definition will be the synopsis of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”
You have to wonder why Kevin James waited six years to make a Paul Blart sequel. After seeing number two I’m tempted to think it was to give people enough time to forget how brutally unfunny the first movie was. You have to hand it to him, however. With “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” he’s managed to top the first movie, making a comedy even more relentlessly unfunny than the first one.
There are, to be generous, about three laughs in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” all of which can be viewed in the trailer. The other 89 minutes are filler. The audience I saw it with seemed to be laughing out of pity rather than because anything in the movie is actually amusing.
There might be some 1980s “Pac Man Fever” nostalgia for those who came of age during the Reagan years but as good-natured as the movie is, there’s not much here to recommend it as a comedy. There are Donkey Kong games with more laughs than “Pixels.” Sandler’s man-child with a heart of gold character is now as creaky as an arcade game joystick after a Battlezone binge.
There is an interesting story in how pop culture can have a massive impact on people’s lives, but the movie is content to stick to the Sandler template, using the inventive premise as a frame for another of the comedian’s tired romantic hook-ups. Predictable and not nearly heart warming enough to make you care about the characters, “Pixels” feels lazy, as though it was too much work to make the video game warrior aspect anything more than a sentimental gimmick. It’s Game Over for “Pixels.”
There haven’t been many laughs coming out of Afghanistan lately and I’m sad to report the Bill Murray comedy, “Rock the Kasbah,” doesn’t rectify that situation.
Everybody loves Bill Murray. That is a fact. Unarguable. He has woven himself into the fabric of popular culture both on screen and off. If he’s not opening a movie he’s going viral, getting videoed at some random dude’s bachelor party providing marital advice. He’s everywhere and is usually a welcome presence but lately I’ve begun to feel that his career is in a bit of a “Groundhog Day” loop.
Time after time he has returned to a familiar formula: crabby guy alienates everyone around him only to have a warm and cuddly epiphany by the time the credits role. Frank Cross, Phil Connors, Vincent MacKenna or Richie Lanz, the character names change but their journeys are essentially the same.
Normally audiences don’t care; Murray is such an icon it’s enough for him to simply show up and snark his way through a few funny lines and voila! Instant classic. It’s a crowd-pleasing recipe but it runs dry in “Rock the Kasbah.”
Even Oscar winners make mistakes. Meryl Streep starred in “She-Devil.” Daniel Day-Lewis camped it up in “Nine” and “All About Steve” was a career nadir for Sandra Bullock. Now its Jennifer Lawrence’s turn to appear in a movie that will one day be best remembered as an entry on IMDB’s Bottom 100 list.
“Serena” has all the makings of an epic story. Imagine “There Will be Blood” built on a base of timber instead of oil. Betrayal, jealousy, murder and money swirl around the central characters, but instead of combining to create a compelling narrative the elements collide in a big bang of schlock. From the broad southern accents to the dirt-smeared Rhys Ifans as Serena’s violent lap dog, everything about the movie verges on caricature.