YEAH! Oh, YEAH! Oh, YEAH!
Hello again. In this, the final article of my giant Year in Review marathon, we are counting down The Final Five of my Bottom 10 Films of 2015 list. Yesterday, we covered #10 to #6 which, if you missed or need a refresher, you can find over here. Otherwise, IIIIIIIIII CAN’T STAND IT…
There may be spoilers. Proceed with caution.
05] Terminator: Genisys
Dir: Alan Taylor
Star: Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Classes should be taught about Terminator: Genisys – a film that I will be calling Genesis from this moment on as my spell check is silently judging me whenever I type it the official way, for the record. You know those classes you occasionally glimpse in Hannibal where Will Graham is relating information about a past or current serial killer as lecture material so the students can learn from these past occurrences and be better prepared to minimise the damage in future situations? Yeah, one of those. Genesis is a walking embodiment of every single thing wrong with Hollywood filmmaking today, a 2 hour exercise in showcasing every single complaint that snobbier critics have against blockbuster filmmaking and proving their snobbishness exactly right. Remember what I wrote about SPECTRE in the last part? Take that, multiply it by a thousand and remove any basic filmmaking competency, and you have Genesis.
I hate this movie. I don’t even love Terminator that much and I hate this movie, which is fitting since the movie seems to hate the Terminator franchise and everyone who gets any kind of enjoyment out of it just as much. Its plot is simultaneously far too needlessly complex with plot holes that you can drive S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers through – which are best summarised here – and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it’s being, hoping that injecting a whole load of pointless time-travel paradox-y mumbo-jumbo will distract the viewer from the fact that it’s creatively bankrupt. That’s not even mentioning the dialogue which is 80% exposition, leaving the film with no time to actually have any fun in its universe, and 20% grade-school level bantering. Its special effects are ghastly, what doesn’t look low-res instead contains absolutely no weight whatsoever, flinging our cast and everything else around like they’re starring in a goddamn Looney Tunes short, and also looks low-res. I should not be watching a goddamn Terminator movie and find myself not metaphorically soiling my pants in fear over a skinless T-1000, yet here we are. Again.
I hate the fact that everybody, even proven good actors and actresses, is terrible in this, especially living mannequin Jai Courtney who was inexplicably given the Leading Male role to yet another 80s classic that needs to be left the hell alone despite what happened the last time we did such a thing. I hate the fact that the film straight-up restages parts and setpieces from prior Terminator movies, especially in the 1984 segment, in order to score cheap nostalgia points instead of actually doing anything truly different and subversive with them. I hate its pathetic excuse of a Sarah Connor, watering down all of her nuance and ambiguity and depth to instead turn her into a generic Tough Girl. I hate its awful, unmemorable and just plain boring action scenes that are clearly striving with all of their might to keep the thing from tipping over into a 15 or R-rated movie, lest it shrink the prospective money pit every studio exec involved was clearly hoping they’d get.
Worst of all, though, I hate that it doesn’t even attempt to be entertainingly or obviously or extravagantly bad. It doesn’t even aim for that bar, let alone the bar for an exciting and interesting blockbuster. It instead settles for “average”. It aims for “mediocre”, it aims for “exists”, and it hopes that everybody watching it will be too bored to take it to task for that, for being so lazy, so pointless, so endemic of everything wrong and cynical about blockbuster filmmaking in 2015. But do you want to know what’s even worse than that? Every person that I’ve talked to who has seen the film falls into that very camp. They acknowledge that it’s bad, but they can’t get worked up about it because it’s not obviously or interestingly bad, so they just shrug their shoulders and move on, essentially proving the film right that this is some kind of ideal to strive for.
But it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be. As I mentioned way back when I was praising The Martian, blockbuster filmmaking is capable of so much – of images of great beauty, of offering up pure fun, of forcing the mainstream to have to accept difficult and non-conventional stories and storytelling techniques, of broadening diversity in film. Films like Terminator: Genesis actively work against that potential by being maddeningly and resolutely lazy with no ambitions yet still expect money to be showered over them regardless. They’re the film equivalent of shitty-ass teenagers.
Dir: Chris Columbus
Star: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad
A film about aliens invading Earth impersonating as videogame characters, necessitating a group of hardcore gamers to team up and dispose of the threat utilising their awesome gaming knowledge, with an $88 million budget and a prime Summer release slot is a can’t-fail idea. Videogames are at an all-time popularity high, the premise is perfect enough to attract both the old-faithful gamers who will get to see favourites like Donkey Kong up on screen whilst the kids and families get a modern-Jumanji to themselves, and it may even solve the problem of Videogame Movies Suck by being a somewhat original(ish in that it’s not directly based on a pre-existing game franchise look I’m trying) idea, avoiding the usual Videogame Movie problem of being based on a facsimile of a movie to begin with.
So WHY, in the name of all that is holy, would you ACTIVELY CHOOSE to NOT aim this at kids? And WHY, heaven help me WHY, would you VOLUNTARILY CHOOSE to give this movie to ADAM SANDLER and have him make AN ADAM SANDLER MOVIE?! Whose incredibly fucking stupid idea was that? Have they be fired? I hope to God that they’ve been fired, they clearly can’t be trusted to tie their own goddamn shoelaces let alone greenlight movies. Pixels is an abomination, a festering ripe-as-hell dog turd where every single thing that can go wrong goes atrociously wrong. It looks cheap, it has no actual jokes – only references, constant references where the film goes “LOOK, THAT’S TETRIS! LAUGH BECAUSE YOU REMEMBER TETRIS!” – and traffics almost solely in tired gay panic and “NERD!” stereotypes, it breaks its own established rules multiple times, it has no character arcs, no stakes, no depth, it can’t even remain consistent in the villains’ own goddamn motivation between scenes!
Pixels is a movie that absolutely despises its audience, like The Big Bang Theory except somehow even more hateful. Its audience which, again, is somehow NOT families and children. It does absolutely nothing interesting with its various videogame licenses, they could be replaced by the collective cast of the works of Ryan Murphy and there’d be the exact same effect. It constantly gets videogame rules and mechanics wrong, and not just as little incidental details but as full-on plot points that we are supposed to accept are real things that you can do in videogames. Adam Sandler is positioned as The Cool One of our ragtag band of “heroes” because he’s the one who is the least obviously nerdy and, therefore, is almost never the target of the jokes. Josh Gad, meanwhile, plays a creepy, basement-dwelling, constantly screaming capital n-e-r-d as a lightning rod for all of the film’s “NERD!” scorn and an embodiment of what everyone involved thinks of their target audience.
And then there’s the misogyny, the constant active misogyny. Jane Krakowski plays Kevin James’ wife and her entire role in the film is to hang off of his arm every now and again like a decoration. All of our “heroes” are actively sexist douchebags who are nevertheless rewarded for their actions and never-wavering sexism with women – Adam Sandler getting the girl he’s spent all movie sexual harassing and negging, Peter Dinklage getting the three-way with Martha Stewart and Serena Williams (appearing as themselves for some utterly bizarre reason) that he negotiated getting as a condition for his joining the team earlier on. And as for Josh Gad… hoo boy. Josh Gad has a creepy obsession with an 8-bit videogame character when he’s a kid, and this obsession carries through to his adulthood where he has a shrine to her and talks about wanting to marry her. Inevitably, she’s beamed down in the finale by the aliens but switches sides because Josh Gad’s love is just that strong. Oh, and she has no dialogue at all because god forbid a woman get to actually say or do anything of their own choice or express themselves in this movie.
But it gets worse. After the aliens are defeated, Lady Lisa, the name of the character, gets beamed back away because, you know, she’s an alien and all. Josh Gad is sad about this, because this fictional woman who never says a word and whose sole existence is to be a sex object who occasionally beats up people was the love of his life and he wanted to marry her. Upon voicing this, Q*bert, who was given to the heroes earlier in the movie as a trophy and who is inexplicably not beamed back home with the rest of the aliens, magically transforms into Lady Lisa and her and Josh Gad kiss, get married, and eventually create little Q*bert babies. Let me repeat that for you: creepy sex pest Josh Gad is rewarded for being a creepy sex pest with A LITERAL TROPHY WIFE. This actually happens. In a movie. Released in two-thousand-and-motherfucking-fifteen.
Pixels is a movie that does not stop digging in its quest to find the bottom, no matter how many times it may seem like it has found the bottom, it just keeps on digging. A hateful, inept misogynistic piece of absolute trash that was somehow even worse than I thought it was going to be. This is a movie that managed to make me simultaneously ashamed to be a videogame fan, a film lover, a man, and a human being in general. Just… ugh.
Dir: Doug Ellin
Star: Kevin Connolly, Adrien Grenier, Jeremy Piven
You were expecting this one to be a lot higher. I know for a fact that you were expecting this one to be a lot higher. I haven’t jumped the gun, I haven’t gone soft, Doug Ellin does not have me at gunpoint. I really did see two things this year that I hated more than Entourage. 2015 provided two more rolls of celluloid that I hated more than this self-indulgent celebration of a toxic subculture; a film that dares to demonstrate what a 104 minute comedy would look like if it completely lacked jokes, barely featured a main plot, was stuffed to the brim with time-wasting subplots, celebrated being a misogynistic toad, completely failed to understand Hollywood, ran away from any part of its potential satire, and had nothing in the way of stakes, arcs, or any kind of threat. It’s the movie equivalent of Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” and is exactly as insipid as that sounds.
But it’s stalled out at #3. Quite honestly, the hate has gone for this one. In fairness, the hate was never really there in the first place, because Entourage (much like the TV series it spawns from) is so mind-numbingly boring that working up proper rage and scorn is near-impossible, quite frankly. But, yeah, I just don’t have the energy or fucks required to put this any higher or to waste any more of my somewhat-valuable time telling you why Entourage is absolute and total garbage. I don’t even need to because I wrote 2630 words when I saw this dude-bro power fantasy disguised as a movie for actual human beings back in June, and I said quite literally every single thing there is to say on the thing back then. Why should I waste your time, my time, and precious valuable words just re-stating what I said perfectly back then?
The answer is that I shouldn’t. Entourage does not deserve any fresh words or energy. Go read my review if you need to know why it’s on here – and if you’ve read it before, maybe go read it again, it’s one of my finest hours – and then let’s all move on to our now Entourage-free lives. Doesn’t it already feel so much better?
02] Fantastic 4
Dir: Josh Trank
Star: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan
Even if Fantastic 4 were an actual movie, even if it were completely free of incredibly obvious executive meddling, even if it were the film that Josh Trank wanted to (and supposedly did) make… it would still have SUCKED. The glimpses that we do get of the vision that Josh Trank and Simon Kinberg had planned for the Fantastic 4 are absolutely abysmal, a walking self-parody of the Nolan-isastion of the Comic Book Movie but three years too late for it to have just missed the bus. It’s not that I believe that superhero movies shouldn’t also attempt to be meditative and intellectual instead of solely fun and explosions – quite the contrary, I actually believe, as much as I love me the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that superhero movies should be aiming for different tones, styles, and genres instead of sticking solely to template – it’s that Fantastic 4 is ploddingly slow, achingly dull, and completely bereft of characters, much less anyone likeable.
It saunters through its first act so in love with its irritatingly moody tone, you could seriously back every single scene in this movie to “Untitled Self Portrait” from The LEGO Movie and not a damn thing would change, that it completely fails to realise that none of its characters are in any way interesting, likeable, or even drawn with anything approaching one-dimension. Yet the film proceeds to wallow completely in this build for an hour. A full hour, filled with atrocious performances from absolutely everybody, horrendous writing that’s on the level of stuff I was producing back in Year 4 of Junior School, and a complete contempt for the sole woman in the story that somehow is even worse than the last time the Fantastic Four series brought us a Sue Storm. The much-vaunted and talked-up Cronenberg-ian Body Horror lasts barely two minutes and caused actual full-on laughter from my half-full screening that I had to actively suppress the urge to join in with.
But none of this is really much of a surprise because Fantastic 4 is not a movie. It tells no story, let alone a coherent one, it’s been throttled and edited and meddled to within an inch of its life for seemingly no other reason than the fact that the execs at 20th Century Fox could, it has no themes or points to make or any reason to take up 100 minutes of the viewer’s life and $120 million worth of cash money that could have been better spent on literally anything else. I’d say that it seems completely unaware of how awful its nominal “heroes” are, of how lethargic its pacing is, of how often it contradicts itself, and of how much it craters in what is still one of the worst final thirds of anything I have ever witnessed, but Fantastic 4 is completely aware of all of those things. It just doesn’t care.
This is not a movie. Not one that’s been created for public consumption or enjoyment, at any rate. This is a work that solely exists to settle a rights dispute, because 20th Century Fox are now rightly terrified that Marvel Studios will come asking for their toys back and are determined to ensure that that does not happen. Making a good movie that people would enjoy isn’t even on the first page of this thing’s list of priorities, and that clearly tired and miserable sense of obligation permeates every last facet of the wallpaper that is up on screen. Clearly nobody is having any fun, clearly nobody wants to be here, and this thing clearly only exists so that 20th Century Fox can wave their dicks at Marvel and drag Marvel’s toys irreparably through the mud with Marvel and us not being able to do a damn thing to stop them. This is an attempt to destroy these characters in what was basically a win-win situation for Fox. If Fantastic 4 succeeded, they would get to make more of them. If it failed, then the damage to the brand and the characters would be so severe that even if Marvel did buy the rights back then they still would not be able to use the characters again for another decade as audiences would, quite rightly, laugh them off screen.
Fantastic 4 is an ashcan movie, something that solely exists to settle a rights dispute, yet 20th Century Fox, instead of doing what normally occurs in this kind of situation which is banishing it straight to the vaults forever, expected us to pay them money for having made it. The absolute contempt for the viewer on hand here is astounding and rage-inducing. My time was legitimately wasted by watching this thing, it is absolutely worthless. Arguably, it shouldn’t even be on this list due to not being a movie, but sometimes you need to ignore the semantics and just call a pile of shit a pile of shit.
Dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Star: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Let me tell you about my Grandad.
My Grandad passed away in November of 2013 after a battle with lung cancer. It had been mentioned to me some point beforehand that he had battled cancer before and that it had gone into remission rather quickly, so the rest of my family hid that fact from me and my brother. I only discovered that the cancer had returned when, about three weeks before he passed away, we went around to his and my Nan’s house to visit him and saw that he now required a portable oxygen tank (or something like that) to breathe properly for long periods of time. Two days before he succumbed to the cancer, I was taken to see him at the local hospice. He was permanently hooked up to machines, drifted in and out of consciousness at random, and was incapable of talking at all. He died the night I went back to university.
It still hurts. It hurt back then, seeing him in the hospital in such a weak and helpless state, but it continues to hurt whenever I visit my Nan’s house. To walk through the door, go to the living room, and not find him sat on the sofa closest to the window, intently watching the TV but also aware of most-everything going on around him… it feels wrong. It feels empty. Even now, two years on from his death, it still causes my heart to sink, like there’s some part of me that’s expecting him to just walk back through the door shortly after I’ve arrived, revealing that he was just down at the pub for few minutes before plopping himself back down on that sofa and stating that I “don’t half watch some rubbish.”
However, as much as it hurts me and as close to him as I was, I have never for one second assumed that my pain is the most important or the biggest, or that this was some kind of teachable moment for myself. I have no idea how much this is still hurting my Nan, who was married to him for at least 40 years and had to face life alone for the first time after he passed. I have no idea how much this is still hurting my Dad, his own son who has had to move back in with Nan after a year in which everything proceeded to go horrifically wrong for him. I most certainly have no idea what it was like for my Grandad, to feel your life slipping away from you, to close your eyes and not know if you’ll be waking up again, to be surrounded by family members desperately hoping you will somehow miraculously pull through. My pain and grief are important, they’re things I have to work through and anybody losing any family member is an understandably painful moment for them, but they are not the most important thing. I am not the special-est and unique-st snowflake imaginable, I am not the centre of this development’s universe.
Let me tell you about self-loathing.
Self-loathing is waking up every morning knowing, in the back of your mind, that a countdown clock has started ticking as to when something seemingly-inconsequential happens that causes your whole day to be ruined. Self-loathing is finding tiny things, like not getting any work done that day or forgetting the needle required for you to take the insulin injection before you can have your tea, to be major evidence that you suck irredeemably and driving yourself into a state of pure misery based on this one little thing that went wrong. Self-loathing is considering a desire to hang out with friends constantly to be a major character fault that makes you come off as needy. Self-loathing is looking at yourself in the mirror every day and wishing you were in the skin of quite literally anyone else, so disgusted are you by the thing staring back at you. Self-loathing is finding it impossible to hype up any work you do properly because you genuinely don’t believe you are good enough to deserve it. Self-loathing is spending the rest of an evening after interacting with a great friend beating yourself up for not being able to stop majorly crushing on them.
Let me tell you what self-loathing is not. Self-loathing is not painting yourself as a victim of a world that’s trying to force you to understand that you are not the centre of its universe. Self-loathing is not repeatedly and smugly stating how much better than everyone else you are, that everybody else is somehow beneath you with their petty social squabbles and childish delusions, and that your pompous arrogance is an ideal to strive for. Self-loathing is not considering yourself a Nice Guy who Hot Girls would never want to go out with because you’re just so mediocre. Self-loathing is not a motherfucking character quirk that you throw onto your incredibly unlikeable asshole twat of a lead character without any actual understanding of what self-loathing is, what living with it is like for those who battle with it, and without any actual interest in self-loathing as a condition beyond “quirk”.
This is why I absolutely despise Me and Earl and the Dying Girl so completely and totally. This is why it has stuck with me beyond just being an absolutely awful, insincere, Sundance-bait vomit-encrusted shit-stain of a movie that never once works. This is why I truly and genuinely believe and stand behind every single word of my incredibly vicious review. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl decided to utilise the subjects of cancer and struggling with self-loathing purely as things through which to chart lead character Greg’s growth – growth that doesn’t even stick, considering that the film’s insufferable narration is him writing a college admissions essay reflecting on his experience that he is displaying no self-awareness of. The film is not in the slightest bit interested in how cancer affects Rachel, the titular dying girl, or those closest to her, like her mother, only Greg who has absolutely no personal stakes in the matter and frequently just straight up doesn’t care anyway, whilst his self-loathing is simply ignored totally whenever it’s not being completely misrepresented.
And this movie can go fuck itself for that. To take two things that I have been struggling with for a long, long time – the passing of my Grandad due to cancer, and a constant daily battle with self-loathing – and explore and handle them with absolutely zero care, and then purely use them as vessels for the supposed growth of one of the most unlikeable fuckwit cunts I have ever had the displeasure of seeing on a cinema screen. To claim that the self-absorbed asshole White guy teenager is, in fact, the centre of the universe, despite Greg’s whole arc supposedly being his realisation that he’s not, and that cancer and self-loathing are just ways for him to find himself… Words have not yet been created to properly express the white-hot and pure fury that I feel over this. Every single time I think about this movie, I am pushed into states of being that terrify me, because they are so alien for me, such is the pure hatred I have for this movie.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the most that I have ever hated a movie, the most that I have ever been personally offended by a movie, and the only reason I stayed through to the end is because I had a professional obligation to do so. Fuck this movie, fuck everyone involved with the making of this movie, fuck everybody who shows this movie, and fuck anybody who likes this movie. Yes, really. My rage for this movie is that total, its offence to me that absolute. These people tried to cynically play the cancer and self-loathing cards to manufacture an Indie darling and create a monument to self-absorbed asshole teenage boys and, no, fuck them. They do not get to do that. They. Do. Not.
Callie Petch is lonely and drunk, on their knees.