There’s nothing quite so dispiriting than the sense of disappointment that comes from discovering a film you had high hopes for has turned out to be a dud. These aren’t necessarily the worst films of the year, although some – we’re looking at you Hot Pursuit, Ted 2 and Fantastic Four – would easily qualify as such, they are the ones that had weighty expectations, but offered only an empty experience.
Hot PursuitThe mission statement of Reese Witherspoon’s progressive Pacific Standard production company, which helped finance the actress’ quietly magnificent Oscar pic Wild, as well as Hot Pursuit, is to help create interesting roles for women in film. The irony is that, despite being directed by Anne Fletcher and led by two of Hollywood’s finest female talents, all this ramshackle road movie does is set forward-thinking female filmmaking back to around the time the second Sex and the City film was released. There isn’t EVEN one joke to be found here… seriously, we dare you to try and smile while watching this mind-numbingly misjudged mishap.
The shameless script, tellingly written by two men who we must assume are bone-idle delinquents, forces Witherspoon to play the stale straight-faced cop, and demotes Sofia Vergara’s character to being nothing more than a pair of tits with an accent. IS THIS REALLY THE BEST THAT HOLLYWOOD CAN DO?? NO!! And that’s what makes this putrid piece of shite all the more infuriating. Bridesmaids and The Heat proved beyond doubt that with a little care and consideration, you can make cracking comedies that focus on the fairer sex. Sadly, all this film cares about is cheap cleavage shots, tacky thrills & juvenile jokes. JM
Black MassJohnny Depp attempts to redeem his floundering career playing South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass, director Scott Cooper’s austere adaptation of Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s acclaimed book of the same name. To Depp’s credit, despite Bulger ostensibly being a one-note character, the star does bring a viciously chilly menace to the role, which is enhanced by his beady eyes and bleached brows. But it’s a performance that acts as an allegory for the film as a whole; it is every bit as dark, but nowhere near as weighty as the title suggests. JM
Monsters: Dark Continent Gareth Edwards’ 2010 debut Monsters isn’t a film we would think was desperately in need of a sequel. And now, having watched Monsters: Dark Continent, that thought remains undimmed. As before, the eponymous monsters form the backdrop to a more significant story. Sadly, in this case, that story is stodgy and soulless. Playing out as a mundane blend of Jarhead and Platoon, Director Tom Green’s follow-up simply plays on the tired trope that war is hell. And though that may be the case, this creative reality is torturous. JM
TomorrowlandIf Inside Out was Disney at its best this year, Tomorrowland was surely the studio at its worst. Inspired by the futuristic theme park land of the same name, Tomorrowland got so bogged down by its own story and obnoxious cast of characters that it forgot the main aim of a Disney movie: to entertain. It’s all the more frustrating because the plot had so much going for it, not to mention the fact that it had George Clooney on board and a massive budget to boot. There was a severe lack of charm to the sci-fi story and though the visuals were initially impressive, they lost their magic as the film lost momentum. Give me five cartoon emotions buzzing around in a young girl’s head over flying bathtubs and sadistic robots any day. NX
Jupiter AscendingChanning Tatum as a genetically engineered half human/half canine soldier should have been all the warning we needed before attempting to understand the ridiculously flamboyant Jupiter Ascending. Directed by the brother/sister duo that brought the world The Matrix, this film was so ambitious that it was inevitably going to go one of two ways. Unfortunately, it chose to go south. With a plot as absurd as Tatum’s character, Jupiter Ascending wanted to be an epic visual feast, but instead ended up being a bewildering and unintelligible mess. Don’t even get me started on Eddie Redmayne’s Balem Abrasax – thank heavens he’s had a chance to redeem himself. It’s probably best to push Jupiter Ascending to the very depths of your mind and pretend it never happened. NX
Ted 2Seth MacFarlane is a man always flirting with disaster. His brand of crude, obnoxious comedy can be very funny, but when it goes wrong it’s almost disgustingly terrible. Ted, the tale of Mark Wahlberg and his foul-mouthed stuffed toy, voiced by MacFarlane, fell into the first category. This dreadful follow-up is firmly in the latter. Nearly every joke falls flat as the dubious duo team up with Amanda Seyfried’s lawyer to prove Ted is more than just a toy. The best part is the end, and then only because it means the punishment is over. SM
BlackhatMichael Mann has had notable successes in his career, but the well has been drying up of late. Blackhat, a cyber thriller that somehow manages to appear ridiculous and dull in equal measure, does nothing to arrest the slump. Chris Hemsworth makes for a stupidly physical hacker, a man as happy engaging in action man heroics as he is cracking government systems, while the digital camerawork remains as glossy and superficial as his other recent efforts. This is a film trying to do for the computer age what Thief does for breaking and entering, and Heat does for armed robbery. It doesn’t come close. SM
Fantastic FourWhat is there to say about this comic-book adaptation, apart from sigh, loudly. After its promising-looking trailer and the announcement of its stellar cast of bright young Hollywood actors, we were all expecting an exciting, gritty take on Marvel’s most famous family. Instead, we got a boring, tepid slog that managed to destroy everything that made the original characters so great, heroic and inspiring. AS
SpectreA narrative mess that bewilderingly disposes of the values this rebooted 007 franchise adopted with Daniel Craig’s first movie, Spectre’s only saving grace is the beautiful cinematography of director Sam Mendes and DP Hoyte van Hoytema. Stupid gadgets, pantomime villains and a frankly offensive disregard for its female characters (played by the criminally underutilised actresses Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux) make up a film that is emblematic of a franchise that has seriously lost its way. Not contented with spoiling its own potential, Spectre tries to tarnish its predecessors too by half-heartedly fabricating a Marvel-esque ‘it’s all related’ kind of narrative, as if this film is even fit to clean the boots of Casino Royale or Skyfall. Lessons have not been learned. LR
True StoryAnyone bored of the insufferably indulgent ‘bromance’ that has developed between Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco should steer well clear of this travesty, which sees the latter two actors try to ‘go serious’ to vomit-inducing effect. Based on Michael Finkel’s memoir, True Story has Franco play murderer Christian Longo in what he thinks is an Oscar-worthy performance but in reality reeks of self-importance. He’s one Disney film away from turning into the next Johnny Depp. Hill is equally difficult to take seriously, whilst some of the dialogue the two actors share is no better than that of a student theatre group. Not nearly as intelligent or analytical as it thinks it is, this is self-righteous, pseudo-arthouse tosh. LR
Crimson PeakA new Guillermo Del Toro film is always something to get excited about and Crimson Peak was no exception. It promised to be Del Toro’s crowning masterpiece; an infusion of dark and twisted gothic, romantic fiction coupled with creeps, ghosts, ghouls and all the things we have come to love about the director’s work. Alas, it was not to be. Despite being beautifully designed and realized and featuring a stirringly evil scene-stealing performance from Jessica Chastain, the story is woefully predictable. Devoid of creeps and suffering from a severe lack of tension (no thanks in part to some dodgy looking CG), the film is a grave disappointment. Whilst certainly not a terrible film by any means, this really should’ve been better. NS
Pitch Perfect 2The first Pitch Perfect movie was a gleeful surprise of catchy tunes, effervescent characters you want to hang out with and smart humour. The second movie… eh, not so much. Lacking the sense of humour and charm of its predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2 represents the very worst sins that sequels commit: being a completely unnecessary waste of money grabbing time with nothing but surface gleam to show for it. But hey, it was good enough for audiences and low and behold, Pitch Perfect 3 is on the way. NS