First, the good news: 2015 was a fantastic year at the movies. There were great original stories, sequels done right, adaptations that match their source material, and more. But for every great movie, there are a ton of bad ones too. For those of you with short memories, 2015 was also when we watched Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover) bathe in raw sewage, the Entourage crew prove their alpha-douche toxicity could not be contained to the small screen, and a recent Oscar winner giving such an over the top, hammy performance while at the same time wearing such a sparkly costume, that I reckon he’s been taking wardrobe inspiration from Jareth the Goblin King (if you haven’t seen Labyrinth, you really should). With that said, here are what I consider to be the worst movies of 2015:
13. Fant4stic (hey, that’s what the poster says)
I’m going to be honest. The first 40 minutes of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four are not bad. I remember thinking, “Hey, this might actually work.” The characters are interesting, the motivations are promising and it’s paced very well. But very soon after that, things don’t just fall apart, they crumble like a building in an earthquake. Bad decision on top of bad decision make the film move along an impressively stupid trajectory. Doom... What in holy hell did they do to you? You take a crash test dummy, a glow stick, and the face of Dot from Spaceballs, and you essentially get the look of Dr. Doom in this film. Oh my god, Doom. I’m so sorry bro, they just messed you up big time. On a side note, he does get what is easily the BEST scene in the whole movie. Watching Dr. Doom walk down a dimly lit hallway mind-fucking guards to the point where their heads explode like something out of SCANNERS (amazing film, go see it), you have my attention. Even better was the amount of blood/gore they showed of the exploding heads while still being PG-13. (Here ends my praise)
What makes me even more mad was finding out the insane amount of studio tampering and behind the scenes problems that went into the finished cut. So much tampering, in fact, that the director went on Twitter to publicly disown the film. The people like to blame director Josh Trank for this, but I vehemently blame Fox for this whole debacle. They were the ones who hired him, they were the ones who approved his story, and then for them to get cold feet and to force all these last minute changes is, in my opinion, what led to this movie's downfall. You should never question the smarts of these iconic characters, but here you do - right up to the most boring and pointless climactic battle scene of the year. This all hurts even more when you remember what this great cast - Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Miles Teller, and Jamie Bell - are capable of with a good script. Time to send Marvel's first-family home, 20th Century Fox. This is your third strike.
12. Jupiter Ascending
With the exception of one friend of mine who considers this film to be the second coming of Christ (Hi Bigman ^_^), the majority of the world and I saw this as nothing more than a repurposed “The Matrix” knockoff that added a liberal dose of The Fifth Element and had little more to show for it than a Messianic cleaning lady and Channing Tatum's dog-obsessed alien wolfman. I will say this though… It's the first movie to make me actually appreciate an Eddie Redmayne performance. He's the only person in the movie who seems to understand just how fucking ridiculous the world the Wachowskis have crafted is.
I feel like the whole thing misses the mark they tried to hit, but it's without a doubt an immaculately detailed universe and Redmayne is so unhinged that I get a perverse amount of joy the times he’s on screen giving me a performance that is part Quaalude and part Armand Asante in Judge Dredd. Some would call this a guilty pleasure movie. I view it as a heavily flawed film that gets just enough right to make the whole train wreck fascinating to watch.
Not every story needs a prequel, let alone one of the best-known stories in the world. Talented director Joe Wright tried to make something special with Pan, the first chapter in the story of Peter Pan. But what he ended up with was a busy, overly vibrant film that feels artificial at each and every step of the way. Yes, the cast is good and the effects impressive, but when a story is this engrained into the public consciousness, the musical outbursts and wild effects work against the audience’s engagement with the material. Everything just melts into a world of green screen.
Before tagging Entourage as one of the worst movies of the year, it bears investigation: Is this actually a movie? Most of its characters that aren’t from a pre-existing TV series are actors (or non-actors) listlessly playing themselves. It has conflicts, but they’re resolved so easily, amicably, and anticlimactically that they might as well never have existed. It runs 104 minutes, but could just as easily have lasted 12 minutes, or forever. Even if the big-screen revival of the HBO series about a movie star (Adrian Grenier) and his posse does technically qualify as a film, it’s still questionable whether writer-director Doug Ellin has ever seen any other movies, given the level of movie-within-the-sorta-movie that he presents not as a goof on Hollywood hubris, but as an uncompromising masterpiece that eventually makes half a billion dollars at the box office. Built largely on a series of lackluster setups without discernible payoffs, Entourage even fails as wish fulfillment; on those terms, guest-starring love interest Ronda Rousey would have extended her merciless beating of Turtle to everyone else in the movie.
A road trip comedy in which the car is easily the most likable character, this vile update of National Lampoon's family-friendly classic doesn't end until you can't remember what you enjoyed about the original. Ed Helms stars in the Chevy Chase role (though he's playing the adult version of Clark Griswold's son, Rusty) and the only conceivable explanation for his presence here is that he dared his agent to find him a more loathsome vehicle than The Hangover Part III. When the Griswold family bathes in raw sewage, anyone who optimistically bought a ticket to this movie should be able to relate.
8. American Ultra
Finally, a movie that answers the question: “What if an Alzheimer patient had written The Bourne Identity?” Crossing the drabbest spy film of all time with a pot comedy so inane it could drive kids to harder drugs, this reunion of Adventureland co-stars Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg casts the couple as small-town stoners — the latter of which discovers that he's actually a secret CIA killing machine. Ugly, smug, and told with so little gravitas that Topher Grace plays the bad guy; it's a movie that's way too high on its own supply.
7. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
This film was just enraging. I almost couldn’t believe I was watching a movie that’s populated with such annoying, unredeemable, unlikeable characters. The jokes miss entirely, the super-fun idea at the core is totally squandered, and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it gets better. And that’s the truly painful part. After watching this terrible movie, the end credits scene is vibrant, shocking and interesting, unlike the rest of the movie. You can’t help but be stunned that the idea for something cool was there, but they instead decided to just be dicks.
6. No Escape
Could someone kindly put me in contact with the producer, agent, manager or whoever thought it was a good idea to try to give Owen Wilson the Liam Neeson treatment? Owen Wilson and Liam Neeson seemed to swap careers this year, with the latter doing comedy turns in Entourage and Ted and the former protecting his family from cartoon foreigners. As a whole, what I saw basically amounted to a zombie movie in flip-flops with hordes of Nasty Foreign People attempting to kill Wilson and his brood, driving him to levels of violence we didn't see in, say, Marley & Me. Neeson definitely got the better end of the deal. Don’t worry Owen, Zoolander 2 is just around the corner.
5. Hitman: Agent 47
“Reboot” has been a depressing and meaningless buzzword for a while now, but there’s something particularly dispiriting about a reboot that resets a lousy movie (in this case, 2007’s Timothy Olyphant-wasting Hitman) into an equally lousy (if ever-so-slightly less dull) movie. Here, once again, is the bald, barcoded, and entirely conspicuous video game protagonist who shoots his way through a nonsense plot. His near-invincibility incites surprisingly chintzy special effects along the way, in between the ample time this movie spends on scenes of people staring at computer screens as face-recognition programs run. It shouldn’t be hard to make an entertaining B-movie about a genetically engineered assassin, but it may be time for the Hitman franchise to quit while it’s behind. Presumably, an even lower-rent version of Max Payne will appear in a year or two to take its place.
Oh Johnny… Johnny, Johnny, Johnny... Just when I was singing your praises in my Best Films of 2015 article, you had to go and star in something like this and remind me again why I haven’t given a damn about you for the last 9 years. Playing the art-dealer anti-hero of Kyril Bonfiglioli's comic novels, Depp aims for a Brit version of Inspector Clouseau, and ends up delivering the sort of cringe worthy, over-the-top mugging that would give Jim Carrey pause. You can see the Swingin' Sixties-style champagne cocktail this movie wants to be, but the zaniness and retro thrills are DOA. What makes this film even more cringe-worthy is that major Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, for some reason, decided to tag along in this while sporting one of the worst British accents I have ever heard (which shocks me even when it was her role in Shakespeare In Love playing a British matriarch that got her the Oscar). Just bad overacting and directing all around. Hell, I even wager Depp’s upstaging mustache seems embarrassed to be associated with this.
3. Terminator Genysis
This is what happens when someone with $150M watches the first two Terminator films and concludes that what they really need are six more timelines, a T-800 who was the cybernetic equivalent of Mrs. Doubtfire, and Jai Courtney. What emerged from the ensuing cine-pocalypse was a loveless facsimile of what made the originals great, with added dodgy CGI, incomprehensible plotting, and a Golden Gate Bridge sequence that wasn't even as good as the one in Final Destination 5. For me to even try describing the plot in this is beyond pointless, so rather than try, I invite you to check out my friends over in Red Letter Media and see their attempt.
A movie starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James is really bad. What’s more surprising about Pixels, though, is a movie by Chris Columbus with Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, and a plot that wants to pay tribute to the great genre comedies of the 80's is really bad. When I first saw the trailer, I was optimistic into thinking this might be the movie that makes me not want to kick Adam Sandler in the head so much… This is just another promising film that gets squandered by the Adam Sandler Machine. Hell, Sandler barely even seems to care when he’s up there on the screen. The worst part of all is that he is not the worst thing in this movie. After this film, I can go the rest of of my life without ever having to see another Josh Gad performance ever again. Just stick to voicing cute stupid Snowmen Gad, your time is up. Aside from that, Pixels still has very little to redeem it. The story is lame, characters are worse, there’s no excitement, no laughs, it’s like a movie studio vomited hundreds of million dollars onto a screen and this was a result. Okay, some of the effects look cool. I’ll give it that. But when that’s the best thing you can say about a movie with this caliber of talent behind it, it’s a damn shame.
1. The Green Inferno
GARBAGE!!! The whole fucking thing. And I'm this movie's prime demographic. Fuck you Eli Roth. Everyone, go watch Cannibal Holocaust, and enjoy a much better cannibal movie. And if not that, then watch Ravenous. Had to get that out. Ok, time to be level-headed. Eli Roth has been remaking the same snide horror movie his entire career, constantly subjecting a new gaggle of ugly Americans to a gruesome comeuppance. But The Green Inferno, a dopey tribute to the Italian cannibal films of his youth, takes the isolationist slant of his oeuvre to condescending new depths. Here, the college kids get munched for having the nerve to… give a shit about something and try to make a difference! Even those able to swallow Roth’s confused trolling will still have to stomach the way he somehow preserves the inherent racism of the movies he’s referencing while also stripping them of their nightmarish, snuff-film power. Arriving in theaters two years after its festival premiere, The Green Inferno crawled out of release-date purgatory just to piss all over the very idea of idealism. It should have stayed buried.