You know us —it’s all sunshine and buttercups round here. Almost every other day of the year, we can be found frolicking in the bee-loud glades of cinephilia, delighting in the wonders on display with the unjaded eyes of gurgling infants. But very rarely, we stray to the Dark Side, and today is such a day, one given over to calling out the most ignominious and faith-destroying films of the year so far.
If “best” is subjective, “worst” is just as much so, but with added vitriol. So we’re prepared for a little hate over the inclusion of some of the below (time-pinched trolls may just wish to skip to the comments section now, as we can exclusively *SPOIL* that “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” does indeed figure on this list, and in a high position at that.)
But as much as we regularly fling ourselves in front of bullets for our beloved readers, we literally could not find anyone willing to tackle a few of the titles that our peers suggested might be contenders, including: faith-based flicks “Miracles From Heaven” and “God’s Not Dead 2” (which we avoided partly because those films chose such uninspired titles that the likes of “God’s Not Deader” or “God’s Still Not Dead” or “God: Dead and Lovin’ It!” would have been much more delightful); misbegotten kiddie animation/video game adaptation “Ratchet & Clank“; and the apparently dire “Cabin Fever” remake, which has the dubious distinction of a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Other than that, almost every film that got some sort of a U.S. release since the beginning of January was considered fair game. So these are the 15 worst that we saw, boasting several superheroes, a couple of sequels and, fittingly, more than one prosthetic ballsack. You have been warned.
15. “Precious Cargo”
Perhaps, since not a soul saw the outstandingly craptacular “Precious Cargo,” we shouldn’t include it here. But we cannot pass up the opportunity to talk about Mark-Paul Gosselaar‘s tragically hopeful bid for leading man credibility, as well as the script, which was presumably cooked up by a pair of overstimulated 12-year-old boys at camp the summer before they discovered girls. That would explain the forced, tryhard misogyny of the dialogue and plot points which imply only the vaguest understanding of female anatomy or biology, let alone psychology. Also starring Claire Forlani (making this the “Saved by the Bell“/”Press Gang” mash-up you were correct to never want) as a duplicitous sexpot with a line on a cache of diamonds, the biggest name here is actually villain Bruce Willis, who if the blocking of most scenes can be believed, apparently spent no more than 4 hours filming, most of which without his scene partners present. But who can blame him, when director Max Adams and DP Brandon Cox are apparently intent on lighting and shooting him so he most resembles a Thanksgiving turkey, which is appropriate because his performance is less “phoning it in” than “awaiting slaughter with dead-eyed resignation.” It’s actually pretty hilarious.
14. “Hardcore Henry” [Original Review]
‘It’s like watching someone else play a video game’ goes a common criticism of your average special effects-heavy blockbuster, and one that could apply to a number of films on this list. But none seem to court the description as aggressively, or capture the feeling so perfectly, as Russian director Ilya Niashuller’s first-person action sci-fi “Hardcore Henry.” A film that caused a bit of a fuss at TIFF last year before flopping spectacularly in theaters, it tells a generic story through the eyes of the part-robotic Henry, who’s been brought back to life as a mute killing machine, and sets out to rescue his wife (Haley Bennett) with the aid of the mysterious Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). And that’s basically it. There are some twists and turns, mostly in an unpleasant, misanthropic way. And the action is admittedly well choreographed, but it’s relentless and splattery in a way that sees your eyes gloss over in about fifteen minutes. Deeply puerile, hollow and gimmicky, it actually leaves you at the end feeling like the term ‘like watching someone else play a video game’ is unfair, to video games —there’s more artfulness or invention in a demo of “Bioshock” or “Dishonored” than in all 96 obnoxious minutes of “Hardcore Henry.”
13. “The Forest” [Original Review]
It’s hard to believe that a cheapie horror movie starring a TV actress and saddled with a dump-month release from a first-time director (Jason Zada) could possibly be not-amazing. But stay your gasps of surprise, because here’s “The Forest!” Starring Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones,” “The Tudors“), who in fairness is so watchable she almost salvages it, this is unscary horror, a unthrilling thriller and a psychodrama with only a tenuous grip on psychology. So rote that even those few elements that aren’t worn-out cliches feel tired, the story concerns identical twins Sara and Jess (both played by Dormer). After Jess gets lost in Aokigahara, Japan’s notorious “suicide forest,” Sara, to whom Jess is mystically connected in time-honored twinnish fashion, goes on a rescue mission. Despite the dire, cryptic, broken-English warnings of the locals, Sara ends up stumbling interminably through the haunted forest with dubiously motivated hunk Aiden (Taylor Kinney), and they are met only by a Lost Japanese Schoolgirl™ who delivers dire warnings in cryptic broken English. Between the unterrifying, “The Forest” and Gus van Sant‘s unedifying “Sea of Trees,” which shares a location and distinct lack of quality control, it appears that Aokigahara is also where movie concepts go to die.
12. “Search Party” [Original Review]
If you were being generous, you might let “Search Party” slide on charges of cravenly copying the Todd Phillips broad comedy formula, given that its writer-director Scot Armstrong co-wrote films like “Old School” and “The Hangover Part II” for the director. But that’s about all you could forgive it for. Particularly constructed in “The Hangover” mould, Armstrong’s directorial debut (shot back in 2013 and shelved for nearly three years) sees the marriage of Nardo (Thomas Middleditch of “Silicon Valley”) disrupted by his best friends (Adam Pally and T.J. Miller, also of “Silicon Valley”), who wrongly believe that he’s gotten cold feet. Weeks later, they get a call: Nardo went in search of his former fiancee, but is now lost and naked south of the border. There’s plenty of good comic actors at work here: not just the three headliners, but also J.B. Smoove, Jon Glaser, Jason Mantzoukas, Kristen Ritter and Alison Brie, but all are wasted to varying degrees (Brie especially is weighed down by the film’s shitty approach to female characters). But they just feel adrift amid baggy, aimless scenes that serve as a vacuum of laughs in a film that barely has enough material for a sitcom episode stretched out to an seemingly endless 90 minutes. Fortunately, audiences were wise: the film made less than $5000 in theaters.
11. “Zoolander 2” [Original Review]
If “Zoolander 2” has an upside, it’s that it makes the crushing disappointment of “Anchorman 2” a few years ago seem like a triumph. Ben Stiller‘s absurd fashion-world satire was never on the same level as Ron Burgundy’s first adventure, but it had plenty of solid jokes to the extent that its cult following is more or less justified. But the long-gestating sequel is a lazy, empty disappointment that barely scrapes together any good jokes despite being written by four top comedy writers (Stiller plus Justin Theroux, John Hamburg and Nicholas Stoller). Seeing the titular model lured, with pal Hansel (Owen Wilson) out of retirement to solve a series of pop star murders, the film attempts to paper over giant holes in the material by stuffing it with celebrity cameos. None of those cameos feel particularly zeitgeisty —there’s a sense that the script was written a decade ago and then shelved, right down to the “Da Vinci Code” riff that the plot is based around— and few bits are remotely funny (it’s a serious problem when Kiefer Sutherland is the funniest thing in your comedy). Even Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell can’t liven it up. A much more honest title would have been “Zoolander 2: Will This Do?”