Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Worst of 2016

After the year it's been, it seems entirely appropriate to finish 2016's movie blogging not with the best of the year (you can find that here) but with the worst ... and just as it did in politics, celebrity deaths and global news, there were times when 2016 was really just stinking rotten.

So, I'll end the year with this warning:

Do not see these movies.  It was a bad enough year already, why make it worse?

       Don't Breathe    

This is the cheery little thriller in which a woman gets strung up by her arms and legs, watches in horror while the bad guy rips a hole in her pants right between her legs, then stares at him helplessly while he heats of some frozen semen, loads it into a turkey baster, and rapes her while the camera never blinks.  If this is your idea of a good time at the movies, I'm sorry for you.  It's a completely irredeemable movie, a sordid and sleazy creation with nothing at all to recommend it.  It is offensive in every way.  It is the worst film of the year, but the most depressing, violent, grim, saddening film I've ever seen, without even a sense of style to make it mildly interesting.  Don't Breathe is a movie I hope no one ever subjects themselves to, and if they do and they come out of it thinking, "That was intense," I hope they will seriously consider what they saw on the screen and how it finds nothing at all interesting or remarkable about life.  But please, even that makes it sound like it could be interesting as an exploration of nihilism, but it's not.  It's just a terrible movie, a movie I wish I had never seen, a movie that did something worse than make me angry -- it made me feel despair.  Just the fact that this movie got made and released by a major studio fills me with worry for our future.  What does it say when a film that enjoys torturing a woman this much, that enjoys showing her scream and beg while completely defenseless, that takes such sorrowful glee in putting her in that situation ... what does it say when that film can even be made?  I did more than hate this movie, I regretted and resented it and the space it took up in my head.

       Miracles From Heaven       

Even putting aside the central "come to Jesus" ideas of the best-selling novels that claim a child has gone to heaven and come back to earth, this is a bad movie.  Even putting aside that their descriptions of "the other side" included a blond, tan, fair-skinned Jesus, still wearing the same sandals and robes he had on 2,000 years ago, this is a bad movie.  Even putting aside the rare moments where Jennifer Garner sweats and grunts as she tries to lift the thing off the ground and almost manages it, for the briefest of moments, this is a bad movie.  And here's the most astonishing thing: Even though it features Queen Latifah, an actress who can make the most awful thing better, this is a bad movie.  That's saying something.  It's the cinematic equivalent of "fake news," complete with millions of people who want to believe it.  But if all "fake news" were presented in as boring and insipid a manner, maybe people wouldn't believe it anymore.

       Jason Bourne      

An oppressively stupid movie may, more than we realized, may have signaled oppressively stupid choices made in November -- choices that, like this movie, are not at all concerned with what is believable and true but what is easy and convenient.  This is a spy movie in which the hero steals a police motorcycle to elude the police, where the bad guy steals an armored SWAT van to try to make a quick getaway, and where one of the leading intelligence officials stands at the back of a room and shouts to all the unnamed technicians, "Bring up camera 247 on screen ... enlarge the image ... plot his course!"  My God, if the world worked this way we'd have not a single problem, would we? This is a lazy, sloppy movie, pretending to be a high-stakes chess played out on a global scale, but actually a cardboard set of checkers played by easily distracted and not very intelligent children.  Actually, they'd probably find Jason Bourne a little stupid, too.

       Independence Day: Resurgence      

The original Independence Day will never be mistaken for a more thoughtful revision of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it made things blow up real good and, back when we felt the country and the world were heading in relatively good directions, it gave us a grand sense of American patriotism and a warm, fuzzy feeling that everyone was in this damn thing together.  It took a long time for a sequel to get made, and a lot changed with the world -- and with movies.  The ways movies could marvel us in 1996 seem quaint by comparison, and Independence Day has moved from big-screen blockbuster to the movie you have on while you fold clothes on Sunday mornings.  All of that is to say: A sequel was, at the very least, unnecessary.  But if they had to make one, couldn't they have done something that didn't try to feel so outdated and backward?  It's like watching a movie put on parachute pants and high tops and say, "Am I cool, or what?"  Independence Day: Resurgence is embarrassing to watch.  It has nothing new to add to the story, and even its visual effects look flat and unconvincing.  Take a note, Hollywood: We don't need to see famous cities blow up ever again.  Ever.  Been there, done that -- it even happened to us in real life.  The big, jaw-dropping set-pieces in Independence Day: Resurgence just look silly and unconvincing, which is what you can say for the move as a whole, too.


Come on, really?  The crazy, sometimes paranoid mind of Oliver Stone, the guy who made J.F.K. and Natural Born Killers, can't find anything interesting to do with the Edward Snowden story?  Let's see -- one guy discovers distressing secrets the government is hiding that could affect the safety of all mankind, embarks on a risky mission to download and extract them, then goes on the run while the entirety of the U.S. government tries to hunt him down ... and it turns out to be a boring movie?  Snowden is a snooze, a movie that spends way too much time discussing the ramifications of the information contained on the thumb drive than showing us what it is, or better yet, turning Snowden into the quintessential espionage thriller.  This should have been one of the paranoia-infused greats, a film that mixed social commentary with great filmmaking the way directors loved to do in the 1970s. Instead, we've got a dull, dull, dull movie that makes Snowden out to be the least interesting and most self-absorbed person ever to be among the world's most wanted men.  Snowden does, though, have one impressive distinction: It makes you wonder who could possibly care about this story.

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