No matter how good the good, every movie year has its bad, and 2017 was no exception. The sad fact that this list was so easily compiled without stooping to including any Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis straight to streaming fair, and that the nigh unwatchable Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch and The Man Who Invented Christmas managed to narrowly avoid making the cut is sad indeed.
1. TULIP FEVER
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander deserves much better than this, which is more than can be said of Dane DeHaan, who has no charisma and looks like he's skipping third period French in order to play the painter in this movie. Meanwhile, the metaphors of blooming flowers, opening petals, planting seeds and what not are applied with all of the subtle artistry of that guy on YouTube who likes to put tape on his face.
|Image Courtesy STX Films and Europacorp|
I'm a sucker for cheesy pulp sci-fi, but 20 years ago, I didn't much care for Luc Besson's The Fifth Element. It featured some intriguing visuals and committed performances from its two leads, but the storyline was a mess and the supporting cast was dreadful. 20 years later, Besson himself has more successfully made me appreciate that film than anyone else that has tried, simply by giving me this to compare it to. The story, such as it is, involves intergalactic adventurer Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan again) and his partner Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne). After the opening credits sequence set to David Bowie's Space Oddity, we move to a beautiful sequence on a planet where a low-tech humanoid race (that look a lot like like albino Na'vi) are living peacefully. They fish for pearls containing enormous amounts of energy, and use small, adorable little Happy Meal Toy animals to replicate them. Suddenly, wreckage begins plummeting from the sky, triggering an apocalypse (don't you hate it when that happens?). Before the explosion reaches the surface, a young princess manages to send out a telepathic signal.
At that moment, Valerian awakes and the movie immediately plunges into the abyss of the two lead performances. After an analysis reveals that Valerian might have received a signal from across time and space, he learns that his mission is to retrieve a "Mül converter", (the Happy Meal animal) so-called for being able to replicate anything it eats. It is the last of its kind, and currently in the hands of black market dealer Igon Siruss (voiced by John Goodman.) Before setting out, Valerian asks Laureline to marry him, but she brushes him off, due to his many affairs with female colleagues and his aversion to commitmnet.
There is really no overstating how badly miscast DeHaan and Delevingne are as military officers and intrepid space adventurers, as they look like middle school students dressing up to a costume party, and it's hard not to think about "Spaceman Spiff" from the classic Calvin and Hobbes comics whenever they are trying to pull of an action scene. Flying across the cosmos, romancing Delevingne and referring to all of the past women on his "playlist", the actor is trying hard to convince us he's DeHaan Solo, but it comes across more like Jar Jar Boinks.
Delevingne (who appeared in a supporting role in Tulip Fever) plays Laureline as a sort of hybrid of both Powell sisters on Charles In Charge, but with a laser gun. Clive Owen manages to top turning down Casino Royale as the worst move of his career by appearing in this mess, because at only 53 he looks absolutely ancient next to these two teeny boppers, and is given nothing at to do. In fact, the most interesting character in the film is a shape-shifting cabaret entertainer played by Rihanna, and if you can contemplate that and still want to go on living, I salute you. My New Year's wish for the world is that it takes Luc Besson another 20 years before he ventures into space.
|Image Courtesy Veritcal Entertainment|
(If it wasn't vertical before, it is now.).
2017 was a year when Hollywood was taken to task for its treatment of women behind the scenes by powerful stars, but despite Wonder Woman, there was some shameful treatment on screen as well. One of the most egregious examples came from accomplished veteran actor William H. Macy, who stumbled badly by choosing to direct this shockingly misogynistic "comedy".
Kate (Alexandra Daddario) and Meg (Kate Upton) are childhood friends and roommates who are going through trying times. After a night of drinking away their stress and watching "The Batchelorette" on television, the adventurous Meg suggests they go on vacation to get their groove back, and Kate agrees, mostly because Meg has booked non-refundable tickets to Fort Lauderdale using Kate's frequent flyer miles. Hungover (and ditsy female girl women to begin with), they barely make it to their flight on time. Kate (who is terrified of flying) is put in a window seat and Meg gets an aisle seat. Who gets the middle seat? That goes to Ryan (Matt Barr), a handsome firefighter on his way to a wedding. The lusty ladies immediately start competing for the meat in this manwhich, flirting shamelessly, but Kate eventually passes out, having taken too many anti-anxiety pills. A few hours into the flight, the plane is diverted to St. Louis due to a hurricane warning, and the girls are taken to the local Sheraton, where they bump into Ryan, who invites them to have drinks in the hotel club.
This flimsy set up sets the stage for an endless series of contrivances and backstabbing, as the girls fight for Ryan's attention, coming on as aggressively loose as possible while undermining and sabotaging each other at every move. Kate Upton is a multi talented performer in the sense that she can either wear an extreme push up bra or no bra at all, but when it comes to anything approaching acting, she makes one start to appreciate the convincing performances Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker uses to give in films such as Battleship and Whatever That One Adam Sandler Movie Was Called. Daddario is a decent enough actress but is rarely able to rise above bad material despite a ready willingness to utilize her (supposedly) naturally buoyancy. The script is just a barrage of crass sex jokes and speculations on how women act from a writer who likely has not spent much time with any in real life. And given that comedies such as The Hangover are so heavily based around men being stupid when they together with friends, The Layover (the title works on so many levels!) should get a little bit of a pass for basing itself around stupid, shallow women, but they are so obnoxious, horny and catty that it's impossible not to be offended. And then we get to the big payoff, wherein our beauties discover that A. They both slept with Ryan, and 2. The wedding he's heading to is his own. They bury the hatchet and rush off to stop the wedding so they can save the poor girl who is engaged to this cad, but when they get there it turns that she's a total emasculating and controlling b-word, so they let her be his punishment. That's right: the movie that spends most of it's run time presenting to stupid and slutty man hunting ladies ends with the stinger that the ultimate punishment is to be stuck with a strong willed woman for life.
4. WISH UPON
If Ryan Phillippe wanted to prove that Reese Witherspoon (who has starred in such winners in recent years as Hot Pursuit and Home Again) didn't get all of the bad taste in screenplays in the divorce, he couldn't have chosen a better way than by doing Wish Upon. Phillippe splays Jonathan Shannon, a professional dumpster diver who gives his a music box to his 17-year-old daughter Clare (Joey King, who shined so brightly in Ramona and Beezus and has yet to find a decent follow up.). Upon closer inspection, the box has an inscription stating that it promises to grant its owner seven wishes. Skeptical at first, Clare becomes seduced by its dark powers when her life starts to radically improve with each wish. Everything seems perfect until she realizes that every wish she makes causes the people who are closest to her to die in violent and elaborate ways.
Now, there are a lot of reasons to get frustrated with Clare: her first wish is that Darcie, the mean, cool and pretty girl at school would "just rot." When Darcie develops necrotizing fasciitis the very next day, Clare's reaction is "Hey! I can totally make wishes come true", without even a moment of "I just caused the painful disfigurement of another human being." But to be fair, Darcie was like, totally mean. But beyond that, if you wished on a magic box and your wishes came true, but each time they did, a loved one dropped dead, how long do you think would it take before you started to see a connection between Event A and event B? I mean, you'd have to have a lot going on in your life for those two things not to take center stage in your mind, and the fact that both are novelties that started at the same time and one of them involves a MAGIC BOX would probably ring a few bells pretty quickly. But not with Clare. No, she doesn't start putting the pieces together until there are enough bodies to require some sort of descriptive metaphor for how many bodies there are at that point. The amount of time and thought put into that last sentence rivals any that went toward creating Wish Upon.
5. THE CIRCLE
Mae Holland (Emma Watson, fresh off of awkwardly auto-tuning her way toward international box office glory in Disney's most spectacular sacrificial offering to the Gods of commercialism to date ) is a normal post graduate all American girl hiding a British accent, when suddenly she gets the chance of a lifetime: her best friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her an interview at The Circle, the biggest and (and most ill defined) social networking tech company in the world. The terrific salary and benefits allow Mae to help support her struggling parents (played by Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly, in one of the saddest coincidences in movie history) while moving up in the world. At a company meeting, the CEO, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) introduces SeeChange, which uses small cameras placed strategically to provide real-time video of everything everywhere all the time (no red flags there.). Eamon and his toady, Tom (Patton Oswalt) promise that SeeChange will bring total transparency to politics and the rest of the world, because if our actions, our inaction and our stupidest choices are there on video for everyone to see, we will do better (and with that logic, we can only hope that Hanks and Oswalt will look at the video of this film every time they consider taking a hefty paycheck for making crap.).
When Mae goes kayaking alone at night (as one does) and has to be rescued, it is the cameras that have been following her every move that alert the Coast Guard. Because of this, Mae is chosen and agrees to become the first "Circler" to go "completely transparent", exposing her entire life to the world by wearing a small camera on her person 24/7, and she gets millions of followers instantly, and there are absolutely no consequences, unless you count the whole "accidentally walking in on her parents having sex while she is broadcasting live" thing. Soon, all 50 states are supporting voting through Circle accounts (and the idea of requiring everyone to have one gets floated around. The Circle, with Mae as their spokesperson, advocates total transparency for everyone, reasoning that no secrets means no lies.
But events that are totally unforeseen by anyone who has to strip naked to count to 21 lead to tragedy, Mae realizes that she is working for a monster and is so upset at one point she drops an F-bomb (yes, that's right, Hermione Granger uses The Word That Must Not Be Said, which shows us just what a grown up, edgy thriller we are watching here.). She enlists the aid of a former stormtrooper (John Boyega) to help expose all of Eamon and Tom's dirty secrets to the world, forcing Eamon to use the film's one other alloted F-bomb, after which they are presumably sent to movie jail. Mae reiterates her point of transparency being a good thing, with the support of the audience. The films ends with Mae going kayaking again (this time in daylight), untroubled by the fact that drones are hovering around her, recording and broadcasting her every move, because apparently total lack of any privacy is only a problem if Tom Hanks is involved, and it its left to the viewer to try to determine for ourselves what point this dreadful movie completely failed at trying to make.
|Image Courtesy Columbia Pictures|
Between 1990 and now, we've seen the creation of a world wide inforation network that connects people across the globe in milliseonds; nearly everyone owns mobile phones that are more sophistaced in every way than the computers that were used to send men to the moon, and rising crust frozen pizza is available in multiple brand names. But for all of these advances, it seems that it is still impossible to create a version of Flatliners that doesn't have me looking at my watch every two minutes. The idea behind remaking a mediocre movie is to make it better, and how they managed to redo Flatliners and not make it better is beyond comprehension.
|Image Courtesy Columbia Pictures|
|Image Courtesy Netflix|
|Image Courtesy Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks and Hasbro|
So, apparently, this is what happened: Michael Bay and Guy Ritchie made a bet to see who could make the wackiest variation on the Arthur legend in 2017, and despite his inclusion of a character named "Kung Fu George", Ritchie still managed to lose the bet. If you have a better explanation for this convoluted and puzzling mess of a movie, by all means, come forth with it.
It would be waste of time to try to truly try to explain the plot of this mess, because, well, it doesn't
have one, but what passes for a plot involves the TRF (Transformer Reaction Force), a government agency dedicated to hunting down the remaining Transformers, and we discover that it was a Transformer who gave Merlin (Stanley Tucci) his powers. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is "The Last Knight", able to wield Excalibur, because he is pure and chaste, having never slept with any woman other than his wife (yes, that's right, Dirk Digler is the personification of virtue in this movie.). The increasingly common (and usually welcome) technique of shooting as much as possible with IMAX cameras gets the Bayhem treatment here. It's not unusual to cut back and forth from one aspect ratio to another with IMAX, but it is generally done these days with extended sequences shot in IMAX. Bay uses it to get coverage (oh, how that man loves his coverage) and in addition to the IMAX change uses both 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 (regular wide screen and the wider CinemaScope), and he will cut from one to another from shot to shot. So a conversation between Wahlberg and Sir Tony Paycheck will start with an IMAX master shot of the two, go to an over the shoulder close up of Wahlberg in extreme wide, then go regular wide for the close up of Sir Tony, and finally go to a low angle 360 (because there has to a low angle 360) in wide wide, all in less than a minute. The result is a major breakthrough in making the director's signature style even more choppy and headache inducing than before, and all in glorious 3D!
9. THE MUMMY
|Image Courtesy Universal Pictures|
|Image Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation|
While it is very true that anyone who was expecting much of anything from The Emoji Movie can be politely described as extremely naive, there is also no excuse for it being as utterly worthless as it is. Gene (voice of T.J Miller) is an emoji that lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside the phone of his user Alex. He is the son of two "meh" emojis named Mel and Mary, and is able to make multiple expressions despite his upbringing.
|Image Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation|
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