Sunday 27 December 2015

2015 in review: The disappointments

The worst films of the year – Get Hard, Pixels, the 20 minutes of The Wedding Ringer I could stomach – aren't worth the hike in my blood pressure it would take for me to discuss them, so let's do something different. Here are 10 movies I expected good things from in 2015 but which, for me, failed to deliver on the hype. Some are irredeemable turkeys (Black Mass, Pitch Perfect 2), others are watchable despite their shortcomings (Trainwreck, Sicario)...

1. Crimson Peak (pictured above)
Visually stunning but ultimately vacuous gothic horror/romance from director Guillermo Del Toro. It lacked the punch (both political and supernatural) the director had brought in the past to Spanish-language films such as The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth
2. Sicario
The complexities of the Mexican drug war reduced to clumsy macho revenge fantasy. A pity because elsewhere there is much to admire in Denis Villeneuve's film, not least a fine leading turn from Emily Blunt (Edge Of Tomorrow) as an in-over-her-head FBI agent. Probably this year's most overrated movie.

3. Black Mass
Johnny Depp abandons silly cartoonish roles in movies such as Mortdecai and The Lone Ranger to play an, erm, silly cartoonish role as real-life gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger. Depressingly one-note throughout, Black Mass is a mess of witless confrontation, murder and misogyny. Goodfellas for dummies.
4. Trainwreck
Amy Schumer's US TV vehicle - Inside Amy Schumer - is one of the finest sketch comedies to appear on either side of the Atlantic in the last 20 years. Trainwreck (co-written by and starring Schumer) was director Judd Apatow's attempt to refashion her schtick for the American mainstream and it smoothed off far too many of the comic's sharp edges. In fact, the film's boozy, promiscuous journalist was like something out of 1990s Britain - a story about a ladette, only 20 years too late.
5. Pitch Perfect 2
The original film about an all-girl a cappella group starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson had charm by the bucketload and plenty of funny moments. The rotten sequel was lumbered with one of the year's worst scripts and generous lashings of casual racism. Witless tripe. 

6. Southpaw
After Nightcrawler and Enemy, I couldn't wait to see what Jake Gyllenhaal did next. Unfortunately, it was this absurdly melodramatic boxing flick that contained plot holes so huge you could manoeuvre Starkiller Base through them with no danger of touching the sides.
7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
After all that hype and anticipation, J.J. Abrams' bow as Star Wars supremo had its moments but far too much of it felt secondhand. Nods to the past were inevitable but The Force Awakens too often seemed like a nostalgia-soaked mash-up of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with Abrams even wheeling out a pimped-out Death Star in lieu of a decent or original plot. Admittedly, Finn and Rey were intriguing new characters but Kylo Ren was like Harry Enfield's Kevin The Teenager in Darth Vader cosplay. 
8. The Overnight
Limp sex comedy that manages to squander both its great cast (Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman) and intriguing premise (a vanilla married couple are invited to dinner by their new friends, who may be swingers). Despite being barely 80 minutes long, The Overnight runs out of steam long before the end. 

9. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
One of those quirky US indies that arrives on UK shores every year having been the "toast of Sundance". I genuinely can't remember the last time I loathed a lead character in a movie the way I did Thomas Mann's Greg (the titular Me), an irritating little twerp full of fashionable ennui in need of a good, hard kick up the arse. 
10. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
2014 was probably the best year for superhero flicks to date with Guardians Of The Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and X-Men: Days Of Future Past all impressing. Unfortunately, it was back to earth with a bump this year as Fantastic Four stank the place out, Ant-Man was a curate's egg, and Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel was overlong and cluttered. Let's hope 2016's Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War stop the rot.  

**Next up: My 10 favourite documentaries of 2015**

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