Tuesday 27 December 2016

Basket Of Deplorables: 12 films I really didn't get along with in 2016...

Heads you lose: The Green Inferno is No.6 on my naughty list

In the interests of full disclosure, there were a great many reportedly terrible films this year that I managed to avoid. These included: Inferno, Mother's Day, Gods Of Egypt, Nine Lives, Ride Along 2, Ben Hur and Yoga Hosers. Of the ones I did see, these were easily the worst...

12. Ma Ma (director: Julio Medem)
Sappy, soppy, soapy Spanish melodrama starring Penélope Cruz as a single mum battling breast cancer and conducting an affair with a recently-widowed football scout. Director Medem has clearly lost his way since the excellent Sex And Lucia, while Cruz seems to do any old nonsense these days (she's in Zoolander 2, as well). By the time her oncologist started singing I'd lost the will to live and, at the end, was actively rooting for the cancer.

11. Zoolander 2 (dir: Ben Stiller)
This totally unnecessary sequel (2001's first instalment and Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno surely exhausted all the best fashion industry jokes) sees Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and old pal Hansel (Owen Wilson) return to the catwalk after 10 years in exile following a personal tragedy. I like Stiller but when your movie contains more celebrity cameos (everyone from Sting to Anna Wintour) than it does decent gags, you know you're in trouble.

10. Suicide Squad (dir: David Ayer)
The trailer for this supervillain blockbuster promised us a spiky, punk rock antidote to the usual slick but formulaic superhero fare. Unfortunately, Ayer's film was more Jimmy Pursey than Johnny Rotten - a clumsily-plotted mess which lurched from A to B with all the elegance of a methed-up sloth. Jared Leto's 'Gangsta Joker' divided opinion but, for me, the movie only came to life in the 10 or so minutes he was on screen.

Suicide isn't painless: Trailer better than film shocker

9. Jane Got A Gun (dir: Gavin O'Connor)
Lifeless, listless and entirely unconvincing Western in which Natalie Portman (perfect hair, perfect teeth, non-existent personality) has to defend her badly-wounded husband and young daughter from a gang of wrong 'uns, led by Ewan McGregor. Fussy and overcooked, its multiple flashbacks, clunky twists, and constant need to spell out the plot in excruciating detail made it an ordeal.

8. The Danish Girl (dir: Tom Hooper)
I'm not sure how it's possible to make a film this boring about the extraordinary life of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe but somehow Hooper (Les Misérables) manages it. Eddie Redmayne never once convinces as Elbe, all coy glances, nervous smiles and theatrical hand gestures. There's technique in abundance but precious little soul - something that could be said of the whole movie. Only Alicia Vikander emerges with any credit.

7. Freeheld (dir: Peter Sollett)
Painfully earnest and embarrassingly pantomimic retelling of a genuinely moving true story. Julianne Moore is the New Jersey cop dying of cancer who is desperate to pass on her pension to civil partner Ellen Page. But reactionary forces are having none of her plea for equality and her quest ends up in court, where Steve Carrell turns up as a professional rabble-rouser with three character traits: loud, gay and Jewish. The whole thing quickly descends into farce and not the good kind.

6. The Green Inferno (dir: Eli Roth)
Roth's homage to the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox sees a group of idealistic American college kids travel to the Amazon to save the Rain Forest from a logging company. Unfortunately, the tribe whose habitat they are seeking to protect turn out to be chartered surveyors. No, not really, they're cannibals and quickly put the bite on our naïve heroes. Roth's film is just a bad cover version of far superior movies with some right-wing guff about Social Justice Warriors tacked on to gain a few column inches. He could do better in his sleep.

Fresh meat: Roth's cannibal flick is no genre classic 

5. Independence Day: Resurgence (dir: Roland Emmerich)
Another unnecessary and inferior sequel that lacks any of the original movie's considerable charm. Jeff Goldblum is as watchable as ever, as the first film's killer aliens return for a second go-round, but there's a big Will Smith-sized hole here that the next generation of ET fighters (a collection of dullards you'd struggle to recall even with a death-ray to your head) never comes close to filling.

4. Swiss Army Man (dir: Daniel Scheinert)
I don't like earnest films and I don't like twee films. Swiss Army Man manages to be both and is annoyingly smug into the bargain. Paul Dano is a castaway who discovers the corpse of Daniel Radcliffe washed up on the beach one morning. Dano uses the dead body - who he christens Manny - as a fart-propelled raft as he bids to return to civilisation. I'm sure director Scheinert thinks his film has something profound to say about loneliness, madness and the need for human connection, but I just found it silly and utterly unbearable.

3. Special Correspondents (dir: Ricky Gervais)
Gervais's resurrection of his David Brent character in On The Road certainly had its moments but this Netflix-only release was a real buzz-kill. Eric Bana is a radio journalist, Gervais (who stars, writes and directs) his technician. When the pair miss their flight to war-torn Ecuador, they improvise - holing up in New York and delivering fake reports from the 'frontline' instead. Based on a true story, it's a nice set-up but the execution is not only deeply unfunny but clumsily racist too.

2. Rock The Kasbah (dir: Barry Levinson)
The once great Bill Murray is a washed-up rock tour manager who, desperate for a decent payday, accompanies one of his acts (Zooey Deschanel) to play for US troops in Afghanistan. When she runs out on him and steals his money and passport, Murray is left high and dry. For reasons too tedious to recount, he ends up embroiled in the sale of ammunition to a Pashtun tribe and, among them, meets Salima (Leem Lubany), a talented young singer who he enters into the country's version of Pop Idol, much to the horror of her traditionalist father and lots of other unpleasant-looking men with beards.

Rock The Kasbah is a film in which no Middle Eastern cliché is left unmined, where every cultural stereotype imaginable is blundered through, and the scene in which Murray performs Smoke On The Water is so buttock-clenchingly bad it should have caused a diplomatic incident. Worst of all though is the fact this should really be a film about Salima (the film is very loosely based on the story of Setara Hussainzada, who outraged conservatives by performing on the Afghan Star TV show without her hijab), but she's barely a bit-part player.

Meanwhile, poor 37-year-old Kate Hudson gets to play 66-year-old Murray's love interest in a sure sign her career is about as far down the dumper as it's possible to get.

1. Knight Of Cups (dir: Terrence Malick)
Having adored Malick's films in the past (especially Badlands and The Thin Red Line) it gives me no pleasure to say this is quite the most preposterous and awful move-watching experience I've had in the past 12 months. Christian Bale plays Rick, who, despite being a handsome, rich and successful Hollywood screenwriter is full of misery and ennui. He spends the entire movie moping about Los Angeles, occasionally pausing to remember a failed dalliance with some gorgeous woman or other (Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto and Natalie Portman are among his conquests) before whispering self-pitying cod-philosophy over a variety of random images. (There's some stuff about Tarot cards, too - hence the title - but that's even more tiresome than the rest of it).

A Knight's fail: Malick's film drove me to distraction

Rick, it seems, is in the throes of a mid-life crisis and instead of buying another Porsche or marrying a 20-year-old supermodel like any self-respecting Hollywood arsehole, moans about it incessantly for two hours solid. "I spent 30 years not living life but ruining it for myself and others," he whines. "I can't remember the man I wanted to be." Oh, boo-hoo-hoo, poor rich, handsome Rick. The idea of a wealthy American white man having anything to complain about is absurd at the best of times but, post-Trumpageddon, seems vaguely obscene. If I didn't own a big, expensive telly, I'd have surely thrown something blunt and heavy at the screen.

In Malick's favour, his movie is beautifully scored and shot, but the constantly shifting, almost impressionistic, nature of the visuals grows quickly dull and disorienting. I'm sure it's meant to reflect our protagonist's chaotic state of mind but seeing as how I, at no point, care about Rick or his state of mind, it's a device that is distracting at best and, ultimately, just incredibly grating. And while I'm willing to accept Knight Of Cups is perhaps 2016's most divisive film - I know people who love it and it certainly made more than a few critics' end-of-year lists - I'd rather re-watch the other 11 movies mentioned here back-to-back than ever see a minute of it again.

**Coming soon: my top 30 films of the year**


  1. Your humor is fantastic! Who needs movies?

  2. Thank you for such kind words, Jane. They are very much appreciated. :-)