|The worst of the worst: GET HARD|
As wondrous and giving as 2015 was for movies, it wasn't without its share of disappointments. And here is my list of the top disappointments. Even within this list, most films just didn't match up to (perhaps impossibly high) expectations. Except for the top three; those are legitimately awful.
10. TERMINATOR GENISYS. A well-intentioned botch-up, but a botch-up all the same. Other than the anything-goes juggle act that was the script (which brazenly disregarded the legacy of these characters), the most damaging of all was the casting of Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. Please understand that Sarah Connor doesn't giggle; even as a teenager, she doesn't.
9. BLACK MASS. Was there a film this year with more grand showboating? Try as he much, poor Johnny Depp is unable to rise above his near comical physicality: a prosthetic forehead and blotchy cirrhotic skin. And can we please say a prayer for the mobster film genre and call it officially dead. Its all been done now. If you must watch this film, do so for the female performances from Dakota Johnson (you read correctly), Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple, who make much out of minimal screen time; the rest of the film amounts to a pissing contest between an admittedly stellar male cast (Depp, Joe Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Saarsgard, Jesse Plemons, Adam Scott and Corey Stoll).
8. JOY. This isn't a bad film. It is just a little heart-breaking coming from this director and this cast. As enjoyable as the film is, and as reliably alive as Jennifer Lawrence's lead performance is, this ultimately comes across as a story not worth telling. What was it about the real-life Joy Mangiano that drove David O. Russell to make a film based on her life. She was a struggling housewife who built an empire from inventing and then cannily marketing the Miracle Mop. But there are a hundred Joy Mangianos in the real world; the Lifetime network on television is devoted specifically to stories about them. Maybe it is the treatment of the material. The voiceover from the dead grandmother (Diane Ladd) is frankly pointless. The TV show-within-the-film device that kicks off the movie is odd and demeaning to the Virginia Madsen character. The Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper characters are cardboard cutouts (remember their crackling work in THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK?). And any film that doesn't know what to do with Isabella Rossellini is committing high crime.
7. CONCUSSION. Oh this film has a big heart. But in its earnestness, it loses sight of objectivity. The last thing a film with a cause should do is to put its protagonist on a pedestal. And that is exactly what CONCUSSION is hell bent on doing for most of its running time. It all but canonizes Bennet Omalu. This topic deserves a better film, an angrier, more lived-in film ready to embrace real-life contradictions, instead of the diatribe that CONCUSSION amounts to. And what a perfectly good waste of Albert Brooks. And Gugu Mbatha Raw too.
6. FANTASTIC FOUR. This is not the full out disaster they would have you believe. Set aside the naked greed in financing yet another reboot of this story. But you can almost chart the filmmaker slowly losing grip on the material, starting at the halfway mark. As if he just gave up mid-film. Some day, director Josh Trank will reveal the horror that must have been the making of this film. The one silver lining in all this: no sequels means there will be fewer Miles Teller movies the world will be subjected to.
5. RICKI AND THE FLASH. This film, the very air it breathes, seems incongruous with the person who helmed SOMETHING WILD, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and MARRIED TO THE MOB. There is something to be said for an unconstricted, free-form telling of a story that Jonathan Demme used to great effect in his last outing, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. Even a fraction of the bite and rawness from that film would have been life-saving for RICKI AND THE FLASH.
4. THE HATEFUL EIGHT. The first part of this film is genius. I have written about the issues I had with the rest of the movie.
3. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL I was only marginally annoyed when I first saw this film, but with time I have grown to fully loathe it. It barters the sort of small film tropes that gives indie cinema a bad name: the too quirky by half characters, exhausting hipster references, and the kind of dialog that nobody in real life ever utters. But most egregious of all, is the film's dishonesty. A filmmaker has the right to pawn all the emotional duplicity at their disposal to extract a cathartic response out of the viewer, but I would prefer not to be jerked around like that, thank you very much.
2. SOUTHPAW. This is stupid miserablist nonsense. A puffed-up, inferior remake of ROCKY. One need only compare this to CREED to realize the emptiness of SOUTHPAW. It pains me that Jake Gyllenhaal was associated with this nakedly manipulative film that has nothing besides hypermasculine posturing to show for itself.
1. GET HARD. Vile.