Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Most disappointing movies I watched in 2015

It would be hard for me to narrow down an "objective" list of worst movies for 2015, since I watched -a lot- of low-budget, badly rated movies this year, but at the same time, I'm not sure I'd want to put them on such a list. See, while I'm not drawn to actors or characters like many movie viewers, I'm a sucker for world-building, unique story elements and a strong visual style - leading me to love several "objectively not very good" movies like; Demolition Man (amazing world building), The Postman (some very interesting ideas about an image overpowering the person), Wanted (love the stylistic choices, wish it'd done less story), The Grinch (world-building, visual style), the Matrix sequels (there's so much depth hidden between the overly-long fighting scenes) and Hellboy 2 (visual world-building, creature design).
But most of all I'm a story-oriented viewer.
Show me something, anything unique, creative and/or complex and I'll forgive most other technical faults because I can see the original intent of the writer/director, and can appreciate the ideas that were lost during production.
This year was for me filled with flawed products featuring interesting, unique and creative story-elements I didn't expect to find in cheap made-for-tv movies.

No, what really gets me going are movies that failed to do anything with their set-up, movies where I went in with low expectations and still ended up disappointed, movies where I turn off and sit there seething with frustration and anger over what I just watched. Most of the movies on this list stuck with me for days after as negative emotions, and the top three managed the impressive feat of making me both exceptionally bored and incredibly angry at the same time.

Presenting; the most frustrating, irritating, disappointing things I watched this year

9. Man of Steel (2013)
I really, really disliked Superman Returns, and wasn't especially intrigued by the Man of Steel trailers, so I went into this movie with a sort of "I guess I have to see it some day" attitude. And I was still disappointed. I found most of the movie boring, Zod's characterization two-dimensional and underdeveloped, but the final peg in the coffin for me was that it just wasn't a Superman movie. That ending both rewrote everything Superman has been - and removed any chance of a sequel.
How do you one-up the villain that broke Superman?

8. Equilibrium (2002)
Equilibrium was well-received (by audiences, critics hated it) when it released in 2002, and maybe I'd have given it more leeway at a time when Matrix-rip-offs weren't such a dime a dozen as they became in the following years, but I just had no patience for this "trying to be more poignant that it really is" visual slog of a movie. Everything is symbolic in an incredibly obvious, in your face way, the "twist" was much better realized in Half-life 2, and most of all; ANGER IS AN EMOTION!!

7.Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
You could have been good Terminator 3!! I didn't like the "happy every after" ending of Terminator 2, so I was all up for the "Rise of the Machines" plot-line, and the script had quite a few interesting elements in it, it's just.. The action is boring, the acting is meh, there's several lines of dialogue that directly contradicts both the movie's plot and the character's personality, and I do not understand the weird, sexy female Terminator!
I wouldn't have minded a female Terminator who played on her sex-appeal if she was a Terminator built for infiltration and blending in, but she's not, she's a Terminator-killer, and while she has a scene where she "fixes" her breasts to look more appealing, she doesn't actually use her new "attributes" when dealing with the cop, she just shoots him. I'd also accepted a Terminator-killer that's a sadist, that I could see Skynet programming, but I do not accept a computer programming a Terminator to almost get an orgasm when she DNA-tests blood!
There's no in-movie reason for her behaviour, just as there's no plot reason for her to drop the "boyfriend-disguise" she puts on to trick Kate Brewster when she does, besides the production requiring its actress to be on screen for most of the movie.
The biggest disappointment is the ending. The ending is so good at first - the slow reveal when we figure out what's happened together with the protagonists, and watch them slowly accept their predetermined future and that everything they did was in vain - and then it's totally undermined by the insulting narration explaining everything like we're a 9-year old watching a sci-fi movie for the first time.

Stop insulting your audience!!
Also, where is my scene where Arnold pulls of his stripper pants? You had fun with the silly sunglasses, why not use the stripper clothes you had him wear the entire movie?!?

Such a wasted opportunity.

6. Robocop (2014)
See Robocop, I could have been one of your biggest fans. I'm not a big fan of the original movie (having barely seen it at the time and not liking hyper-violence) but I am a big fan of exploring what it means to be human, AI and robots. I came into it with low expectations and no baggage, and you still pissed me off!
Robocop is one of the new crop of "sci-fi" movies that doesn't like exploring its own sci-fi elements. It introduces a lot of concepts and questions (some of them being "why is he in such a cumbersome, heavy suit when you -just- showed us advanced prostheses and much slimmer, sleeker robots" and "why did you show him having most of his body just to remove it for no reason, also what happened to his eye??") but never bothers to show us enough to even try to answer any of them.
We're never shown both sides, we're never shown what could be problematic about robot soldiers (the first scene does not count! Just increase their threat-level detection a bit! "Don't kill people with knives" - fixed. Also "they won't feel bad after killing someone" is not a good argument! What, the most important part of using humans in combat is that they'll get PTSD and mental problems afterwards? How is that good for anyone? Besides, you seem completely naive about how humans manage to kill other humans) and we're never shown the "bad guys" motivations or goals.
Android Cop, Hammond and Helen from Android Cop
What's worse, Robocop is a character-driven movie without any character-development. Alex Murphy is a robot before he's put in the suit, and he's a robot after he's in the suit. I couldn't care less about him as a person, and I'm never given enough time with his family to care about them.
I'm also never given enough information or characterization on any of the other characters to even understand what they're trying to achieve or what their jobs are.
I love Jackie Earle Haley and while I thought he had the only interesting character in the movie, he's not given enough time to develop his character or the plot surrounding him, leading to him just portraying a 2-dimensional specieist(?) baddie.

And WHY do the scientists keep getting confused and surprised by their own deliberate research???
"I changed his serotonin levels. Huh, he's acting like a robot now, I don't understand!"
"This serotonin gauge which is the main part of the screen I've been watching this whole time is increasing at the same time as Robocop is behaving erratically, I don't understand!"
Having just watched the Asylum-mockbuster "Android Cop" I can confidently say that Robocop (2014) was outclassed completely by its low-budget, shot-in-2-months counter-part.
Android Cop (2014)

5. Gåten Ragnarok (2013)
I was so happy when this was announced, I love low-budget, not-very-good adventure movies, so I was really excited to get a Norwegian one. I wasn't expecting much, I know from experience that when we stray into a genre Norwegian cinema isn't known for we end up with a regurgitation of common genre tropes, but I was expecting something like The Librarian, Macgyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis or Voyage of the Unicorn (a Hallmark mini-series I watched when I was young).
The Bluray was purchased not long after release, but when I sat down and watched it this year I was so disappointed. This isn't an adventure movie!
Gåten Ragnarok is a generic low-budget monster movie, that seemed like it didn't have the money to feature its monster in all the scenes it had planned to.
If you've seen films like Jurassic Park: the Lost World, the direction of the plot loses all semblance of suspense and mystery. You know exactly what's going on, why it's happening and how it will end, complete with "monster doesn't kill the kids immediately, just stares at them" trope.
Most of the actual adventure and lore elements are delivered through exposition and dialogue (show, don't tell movie!), and the movie keeps changing locations without ever explaining or justifying the scene/time-jump.
Did the movie mean to have them arrive at Bodø airport or was it using it as a generic air-port stand-in, hoping we wouldn't recognize it? If it is Bodø, do they really think you can drive from Bodø to Finnmark in a few hours? There's no good way to tell because someone thought a sense of time and explaining scene-transitions was unnecessary.
How did he get down again into the cave after the rope broke? How are they suddenly on a raft in the middle of the river? We don't need these in-between scenes, that would be -boring-. ...


4. The Mummy Returns (2001)/The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

So shiny, much cgi, such repetitiveness.
(Yes, I am using an outdated, over-used meme on purpose)

The Mummy was a good film, right? The CGI was amazing, right? This line was so funny, right? This character was such a goof, right? The relationship between the main characters was so romantic, right?
Well, I hope you liked the first one, because you'll be seeing it again, and again.

3. Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Aaargh! This movie is single-handedly responsible for it having taken me over a month to complete this post. There's so much I could write about it, so many things to complain about, and yet every time I sit down to write it, I just end up vacantly staring at a blank page.
I could try to explain the plot - but the movie forgets its own set-up towards the end anyway. I could complain about character inconsistencies and unexplained motivations - but there's so little characterization here that it's almost pointless.
I could chastise it for unnecessary and dark-for-darkness' sake scenes -
but by the end I didn't care what tone the movie went for, I just wanted it to make up its mind!
Hello, I am plot device and love interest
There's a scene where Conan is wailing away on armoured soldiers - blood spraying everywhere like the chain-mail is made of paper, but in another scene a leather-clad pirate is stabbed repeatedly in the gut - no blood. One time a man is splatted against a rock - blood spraying out like a sun behind him, and yet towards the end of the movie a man is ripped in two by a sea monster - no blood.
The daughter of the main villain, an incredibly powerful sorceress, insinuates in one scene that she wants to take her mother's place by her father's side (in bed). This is never brought up again.
She almost kills Conan and "plot device woman" with conjured sand-soldiers during an overly-long action sequence - and yet at the end she's defeated in hand-to-hand combat, never using magic at all.
The main villain manages to activate and wear the all-powerful mask that'll make him ruler of the entire world (and resurrect his wife), and yet Conan has no trouble going toe-to-toe with him and defeating him in a generic action sequence.
If you told me this movie had been written and directed by at least two people who never communicated with each other, I'd honestly be less surprised than if it was all one person's vision. The "teenager's version of dark and gritty" story-line we started with - beheadings, torture, boobs, excessive blood, sex and incest - isn't exactly something I enjoy, but during the last half I was begging for the movie to acknowledge these elements, because that had at least been a semblance of a story.

By the end I was barely paying attention, and yet when it was over I was filled with irrational rage and an urge to rant about its total failure both as an R-rated movie and as a story, while at the same time wanting desperately to wash my mind of the tripe I'd just watched.

At least Perlman was good in the few, early scenes he was in. As always.

2. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
This year I've been watching Rifftraxs of a lot of the worst-rated and well-known bad movies, like Manos - the Hands of Fate, Troll 2 and Super Mario Bros (So. Noisy!) and yet the only one making my list is this one, which managed the impressive feat of failing every single aspect of movie-making.
Birdemic just rubbed me the wrong way the entire way through. When you get over the awful acting and incredibly incompetent camera-work, sound, staging, editing, "visual effects", "make-up" etc.. There's just nothing there. No conflicts, no barriers to overcome, no change in character relationships, just the world smiling upon our protagonist for no discernible reason, and then he gets to be an action hero and save some children.

This isn't a movie, it is a fervent wish-fulfillment dream by someone who hasn't the slightest idea how a basic plot is structured. Don't make us watch your wet dreams about dating a Victoria Secrets model, being a rich developer/solar panel salesman and an action hero, just keep it in your fantasies!

There's no way I'd gotten through this one without watching the Rifftrax riffing version, and I still ended up being both bored and so, so angry!

1. Racing Stripes (2005)
*Incoherent screaming*
I was sure Birdemic would be the worst movie I watched this year (and from a quality point-of-view it still is), and then I put this one on a fateful afternoon in December..
*Argh, just.. Frrgh!* ANGRY!!!
This could have been a generic feel-good children's movie about the underdog (zebra) beating the odds, but for some reason -somebody- decided this should be a -comedy-, and my god what a horrifying "comedy" it is.
It's hard for me to even articulate how much I hated this movie, so here's my live-tweets from that afternoon:

A bad movie is very often unintentionally funny, a bad comedy is soul-suckingly horrible, and this is one of the most infuriating "comedies" I've ever watched.
You know series like Fillmore, or Recess, or even Nancy Drew? Children's properties that take adult stories and put them in a children's setting? This movie tries that (and fails), but wasn't sure enough of its own set-up, so it also made sure it had at least three comedic reliefs talking over each-other in almost every scene.

"He's my mane man" "quit horsing around"

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